Teacher to help lead elementary

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— The Hayden School District has determined that a part-time teacher leader will help lead Hayden Valley Elementary School for the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Mike Luppes interviewed and appointed Title 1 reading teacher Rhonda Sweetser to the position Tuesday. Luppes will remain principal of the school, but Sweetser will assume some leadership responsibilities to assist Luppes.

Leadership at the school came into question two weeks ago when the Hayden School Board hired Luppes as the new superintendent after former superintendent Scott Mader resigned.

Faced with the slim prospect of finding quality principal candidates so late in the season, Luppes and elementary school teachers agreed on two leadership possibilities: Hire an interim principal for the 2004-05 school year or have a teacher leader assume some duties until the district searches for a new principal in the spring.

With school starting in Hayden on Tuesday, the second option seemed the most likely. The district advertised for an interim principal, however, Luppes and teachers agreed that having a temporary principal would be the ideal situation at the school.

"We had some people apply," Luppes said. "I guess our comfort level never got such that we felt we wanted to bring someone in for a year and turn around and start the hiring process again next year."

Sweetser has been a classroom teacher at the school for 15 years. Her appointment as teacher leader will be up for approval by the School Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

Though several teachers expressed interest in the position, she was the only one who interviewed for the job.

"It's a real tough decision for teachers," Luppes said. "They knew it was for one year and they knew they had to balance a half-time position with their regular teaching responsibilities."

The district has not decided on a formal name for Sweetser's new job, which will entail handling curriculum concerns, organizing collaboration time between staff, some discipline and keeping things moving smoothly in the building.

Luppes will check in periodically at the school while dealing with personnel and parent responsibilities as well as advanced discipline issues, he said.

Sweetser will continue teaching Title 1 reading part time while paraprofessional Sherry Dunckley expands her current work in the reading program, Luppes said.

Luppes discussed options for the administrative structure at the school at a meeting with about 15 parents Monday. While they agreed that an interim principal in the school would be great, they were comfortable with having Sweetser help lead the school through the upcoming school year, Luppes said.

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