By Jim Newell
As part of Lake Orion Community Schools restructuring plans, one elementary school principal has been laid off due to the closure of Pine Tree Elementary beginning in the 2017-18 school year.
Three other elementary building principals have been reassigned to new schools to help the students with the transition process.
Superintendent Marion Ginopolis announced the staff changes, first breaking the news to district staff before the information went public.
The administrative changes became necessary after the school board voted in November to close Pine Tree Elementary as part of phase two of the district’s restructuring plans.
Announcing the changes now gives staff, students and parents time to adjust to the upcoming changes, and helps with the transition process between building principals, Ginopolis said.
“All of our elementary principals are highly regarded and I am very confident that these changes will be positive for all of the staff, children and families next school year,” Ginopolis said.
The administrative changes for the 2017-18 school year are:
• Pine Tree Elementary Principal Drew Towlerton will be assigned to Orion Oaks Elementary.
• Orion Oaks Elementary Principal Ken Nuss will move to Blanche Sims Elementary.
• Blanche Sims Elementary Principal Jennifer Goethals will take over at Webber Elementary.
• Principal Jamie Wagner, current Webber Elementary principal, will be laid off.
• Principal Rob Murray will remain at Stadium Drive.
• Principal Adam Weldon will remain at Carpenter Elementary.
• Principal Lauren Smith will remain at Paint Creek Elementary.
• There will be no administrative changes at the three Middle Schools or at the High School or Learning Options.
“There are multiple variables that affected the reorganization of administrators at the elementary schools for the next school year. With the closure of one elementary school, it was necessary to reduce one principal. The difficult decision as to who would be laid off was made strictly based on seniority. With great regret, this is Mrs. Wagner, who has been with the district for only two years,” Ginopolis said.
The reassignment of building principals coincides with where the students will be transferring based on the new elementary school boundaries the district released in January.
Ginopolis hopes having a principal with whom the transferring students are familiar will ease the process.
“One major variable considered with the transfer of principals was based on minimizing the effect of the change of schools for the number of children who will be new to their school. For instance, because of the school closure, Pine Tree is the most impacted school population.
“A large number of Pine Tree children are now assigned to Orion Oaks along with the children in the existing Pine Tree ASD program. Having Mr. Towlerton at Orion Oaks will provide them with greater stability and familiarity,” Ginopolis said.
“Similarly, many of the current Orion Oaks children who are now moving to Blanche Sims Elementary School will be familiar with Mr. Nuss, their current principal.”
“With her extensive administrative knowledge and experience in our district, Mrs. Goethals will provide a more stable environment for the staff, children and families at Webber,” Ginopolis said.
This is the third principal for Webber Elementary in four years. Wagner took over the principal position at Webber two years ago when Sarah Manzo transferred to Oakview Middle School as the new principal.
“Announcing the changes early allows for those administrators who will be changing schools to work with the current principal to make smooth transitions for the next school year. This also provides staff members with knowledge of which principal will be at individual schools as they indicate their preferred placement during the upcoming spring staffing process.
“And, finally, this gives staff, parents and children the opportunity to interact with their new principal well before school starts in the fall,” she said.
Assistant Supt. of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer has already begun planning welcome nights and opportunities for parents and students to meet building principals to help the students with the transition process.
There is welcome night planned at each elementary on May 17, and welcome nights at each of the middle schools on May 18 for students and families to become familiar with the school they will be attending in the fall.
The district also has listed other resources and events about the restructuring and transition plans on its website under the restructuring tab.
By Jim Newell