A return to form

Hayden School District's leadership structure changes

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— After nearly three years of a makeshift administrative structure, the Hayden School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to return to one superintendent and three building principals for the 2007-08 school year.

The district is operating with two building administrators - Rhonda Sweetser at Hayden Valley Elementary School and Gina Zabel at Hayden Middle School - and one principal, Secondary Principal Troy Zabel, who is primarily at the high school. Superintendent Mike Luppes also technically is the elementary principal.

The structure was put in place during the summer of 2004 after the resignations of former high school principal Nick Schafer, former middle school principal Colleen Poole and former superintendent Scott Mader within a matter of months.

The district hired Troy Zabel mid-summer 2004, but elected not to hire a middle school principal at the time. No formal hiring process to relieve Luppes of his elementary principal role was performed either.

The School Board elected to use building administrators instead of principals because of tight budgets and the timing of the resignations. The School Board stated three years ago it wanted an individual principal at each school and a superintendent whose sole responsibility was to be the director for the entire district as soon as possible.

The time has come, Luppes said.

"This has been a direction the School Board has wanted to go since we put the other system in," he said. "The reason for the timing is March is when superintendent and principal contracts are offered."

Luppes will remain superintendent, and Troy Zabel will be the high school principal. Searches will be done for the elementary and middle school positions, but Hayden already has two leading candidates in-house.

Sweetser and Gina Zabel will have their principal licenses by the end of the year, Luppes said. They did not have those licenses when they assumed building administrator roles several years ago and have been paid on a teacher's salary with a small stipend.

"Troy and my involvement has lessened in the three years as Gina and Rhonda have taken on more," Luppes said. "This last year, they've more or less been the building principal except for the title."

Luppes estimated the change in structure would cost the district no more than an additional $5,000 a year because of the stipends he and Troy Zabel are receiving for technically being principals of the elementary and middle school, respectively, and the stipends Sweetser and Gina Zabel are receiving for being building administrators.

"We can improve the situation, and it's costing the district very little money," Luppes said. "For me, that's a prime consideration."

Luppes said the three years the building administrator and dual principal structure has been in place went better than anyone anticipated, but he is looking forward to separate principals.

"I can't imagine a better administrative team," Luppes said. "We have a real strong board, and I feel we have a very, very good administrative team as well."

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