3 Westside principals to relocate in D-11 shuffle
Landwehr to head Coronado; only 1 boss for West MS/ES

       Principals from three Westside schools will be “reassigned” as part of a surprise District 11 plan that includes combining West Elementary and West Middle under one person.





       The changes will take effect in the 2013-14 school year.
       In a prepared statement and comments at the D-11 school board meeting April 10, Superintendent Nick Gledich said the reassignments - 27 in all - will “strengthen our school leadership” and were “looked at long and hard” in terms of individual and school needs.
       “We have leaders who will benefit from new challenges and opportunities, allowing them to break their own status quo of leadership style,” he added.
       These are the three principals being reassigned:
  • David Engstrom, an administrator at Coronado High since 2005 (principal since 2010), will become the head of the new Wasson campus, which is to combine different high school-level alternative programs and an “early college” opportunity.
  • Clay Gómez, who started as West Middle School principal in fall 2007, will become assistant principal at Russell Middle School.
  • Terry Martinez, principal of West Elementary, will take over the reins at Rogers Elementary. He had been named principal at the Westside's Washington Elementary in 2005, then became West Elementary's first principal after D-11 closed Washington and created West in the same building as West Middle School in 2009.
           The new principals will be Marcia Landwehr at Coronado and Judy Hawkins at West.
           Landwehr has been an assistant principal at Coronado since 2004. Before that, she had been principal of John Mall High School in Walsenburg and Sargent Junior/Senior High School in Monte Vista. Her position at Coronado is seen as a one-year assignment only, because she has already planned to make 2013- 14 her last year before retirement.
           However, the option of “unretiring” also exists, she agreed.
           In any case, the district has not yet provided information on how the Coronado principal will be chosen for 2014-15. When Engstrom was selected, the hiring process involved Coronado High staff, students and community members.
           Asked about replacing Engstrom, Landwehr said, “David has done an amazing job. We've been a good administrative team. I feel very humbled to be Coronado's principal for a year.”
           Hawkins is currently the principal at North Middle School. She could not be reached for comment, but Gómez pointed out that she was previously principal of D-11's Wilson Elementary. “No doubt, Judy and her team will lead West Middle School to greater achievements in the years to come,” he said.
           As a personnel matter, the reassignment decisions were pursued by Gledich without seeking public input. Board member Sandra Mann brought this up as a concern at the April 10 board meeting. She described it as a “short timeline,” considering that the the reassignees had only been informed on April 4 and 5 and here the board was voting on it less than a week later.
           “It's hard when parents read about something in the newspaper,” she said, adding her impression that “people are having angst about this decision, and they feel they're not being listened to.”
           She also revealed to the audience that the board “has been involved in this process from the beginning, so we're not just rubber-stamping.”
           The board room was nearly full of people for that part of the meeting.
           Before Mann's comments, Board President Jan Tanner said that numerous people have previously contacted board members about the reassignments, and she reassured them that they are listened to. “We don't just click delete on the e-mails,” she said, as an example.
           Spontaneous applause broke out when Mann asked if there was a way that in the future, on such widely felt administrative decisions, the district “can stretch that [the timeline] out a little bit so we can hear from the public.”
           Shortly afterward, the board voted on the consent agenda, and all of the members, including Mann, voted for it.
           In a message sent to the Coronado community, Engstrom wrote that he was leaving “with a heavy heart… I had no ambition to leave Coronado, and my concern is that you will view my leaving as invalidating the message I have spread for the past eight years: Coronado is a very special community. Coronado is a special place because of its students, parents and staff who are committed to making it a community. My plan was to be a part of this community for a long time.”
           However, he added, that “what started as a directive from the district has evolved into a unique opportunity for me. I look forward to the challenge of creating something new on the Wasson campus.”
           In an interview, Martinez said he believes “the ultimate goal is making the district stronger. Much as I like to say I kept West going, if I say that, it's all for naught. But I can walk out of here with my head held high, knowing it will continue, and that's a great thing.”
           He believes he was chosen for Rogers, at least in part, because about a third of its 300 students are Hispanic. “That's kind of where I started at Washington,” he recalled.
           Gómez has had the novel experience of being a principal, in succession, at D-11 middle schools named East and West. (East has since closed.) He said he's “thankful for my years at West Middle School and in the Westside community. It's been a wonderful experience for me.”
           He's liked working with Martinez in the unique West/West arrangement (the only D-11 school with K-8 in the same building - but they're also separate schools). “I believe Terry and I achieved our goal of effectively melding the two programs together, creating an atmosphere of collaboration, cooperation and flexibility,” Gómez said.
           A lingering question about West is logistical. When the elementary came into existence, the district built an entrance for it off 20th Street, including its own administrative offices, separate from the middle school entrance off West Pikes Peak Avenue. The district has not indicated how the layout might be rearranged with just one principal for both schools, or whether such decisions will be left up to Hawkins.

    Westside Pioneer article