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Glenwood school lacking in principals

Glenwood Springs Middle School has searched all year for an assistant principal. Now it needs a principal, too.

Joy Porter, whose wit and wisdom have graced the halls at GSMS since the fall of 1998, has accepted a principal’s position at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Colorado Springs. She’ll say good-bye on June 18.

“There’s something special about this school,” said Porter, sporting her burgundy-colored GSMS staff vest, a turtleneck, slacks, shimmering gold socks and polished black shoes.



Teachers and students have a good relationship with each other, teachers work as a team, and support staff and the school’s Parents In Education (PIE) support group are outstanding, she said.

“Everything works so well,” Porter said.



“It’s a huge loss,” said acting assistant principal Cathy Zippert. “Everyone on the staff is going to miss her.”

The assistant principal’s position has been vacant since last September. Zippert, who retired in June 2001 after 29 years of teaching, filled in part-time while the district sought a replacement, and will not return in the fall.

“It’s really over now,” said Zippert. “Honestly, I did retire in June, so I’m a working retiree.”

Toni Sundlinger vacated the assistant principal’s position just one week before the start of the 2001-02 school year and is now the principal at Minturn Middle School in Eagle County. Sundlinger, who lives in Edwards, was informed that she had the Minturn job just days before the school year began.

That left Porter almost no time to fill the assistant’s position. Most administrative positions are filled by July 1, she said, so there weren’t many candidates available.

District Superintendent Fred Wall said the unfilled positions reflect a statewide shortage of administrators. According to the Colorado Association of School Executives, there are currently more than 200 administrative positions open in secondary schools across the state.

“It used to be that just teaching positions were tough to fill,” he said. “Now we’re into administrative positions being tough.”

Overall, he said, the district is in good shape. A recent hiring of an assistant principal at Sopris Elementary School leaves only the two vacant positions at the middle school.

Wall said several candidates were being considered for assistant principal.

Filling that position will now be put on hold until a principal can be hired. That person will then be involved in hiring an assistant.

Applications for the principal’s position are already coming in, said Wall. A committee of parents and staff members will review those applications and narrow the field to between six and eight candidates to be interviewed for the position. Once the principal is hired, the hiring process will immediately begin for the assistant. Wall hopes to fill both positions quickly.

Wall said it’s too early to tell how many new teachers will be needed for the 2002-03 school year but estimates the number will be between 60 to 70 positions – about the same as last year.

When considering the possibility of staff shortages in the future, Wall said that the district will have to start looking at more incentives for teachers and staff if it wants to hire and retain quality staff members.

Wall added that losing Porter is “a huge loss, both to the school and to the district. We’re going to miss her a lot.”

Wall recruited Porter in the first place.

Porter has worked in public education for 26 years. Prior to moving to Glenwood Springs she was a history teacher in the Colorado Springs area for 16 years, then assistant principal at a junior high school for four years. She was acting principal in Woodland Park for five months before moving to Glenwood Springs.

After Wall, a former Woodland Park administrator, was hired as superintendent here, he hired Porter.

Porter said she feels like she’s leaving the school in good shape for its next leader. All the year-end reports and next year’s budget will be done and new teachers will have been hired.

Porter also leaves behind a long list of accomplishments, for which she openly shares credit with the teachers, support staff, the district and the students.

GSMS offers numerous educational options, including field trips to Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and the Dotsero Volcano, and trips abroad that teachers and students take during summer break. Students also help monitor river water quality for the Division of Wildlife through the River Watch program.

The English as a Second Language program has been enhanced and Spanish-speaking students are improving academically, she said. Students now produce their own yearbook, and the Student Council has taken on more in the way of leadership and responsibility.

The school implemented bully-proofing strategies before they became state law, and relies more on test scores to drive instruction.

“It all comes together, with the dedication of the staff,” she said.

Porter said that her time in Glenwood Springs has been a highlight of her career.

“We’re fortunate in this valley to have so few problems,” she said. “I’ll miss it.”

Sue Tarbell, an eighth-grade science teacher, has taught at the school for 12 years. “We’re excited for Joy and her new adventure,” said Tarbell over cafeteria chatter. Tarbell said Porter helped connect the staff with the student body and created a place where “students feel supported, valued and safe.”

There is one good side to Porter’s moving on, Tarbell said. “Another community gets to benefit from her talent.”


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