The St. Maries School District will have new principals in each of its schools next year. Superintendent Alica Holthaus said the vacancies were not a complete surprise.
“Earlier this year St. Maries Middle School principal, Jeff Andersen, announced his retirement and Heyburn principal, Tammi Masters, submitted her resignation,” Ms. Holthaus said.
In addition, UpRiver principal Liesa Anderson requested a transfer to a teaching position, she said.
The final vacancy, at St. Maries High School, came about last week with longtime principal John Cordell accepting the superintendent’s job at the Tekoa School District.
Filling every principal’s job in the district will require diligence and additional work, Ms. Holthaus said it is not uncommon.
“This will be my second time (in her career) replacing every principal,” she said. “It just happens.”
She said that all the principals kept her informed of their plans so news of their leaving were not complete surprises.
“They were all very professional,” she said.
The school district is advertising the openings on various job boards and is working with both the department of education and the school board association to find candidates.
While news of Mr. Cordell’s resignation came just last week, progress has already been made in finding replacement for Heyburn Elementary School and the middle school.
Tentative plans call for applicants to be screened this week with interviews planned for next week. Depending on the outcome of the interviews, the board could fill the vacancies at the May meeting or opt to interview a second round of candidates.
“I feel good about the applicants we have and we do have a few local candidates,” she said.
The high-school principal’s job may be ready for board action in June, she said.
In the past, because of low enrollment, the UpRiver job was filled by a teacher at the school staff.
“That’s a tough assignment. We can’t justify a full-time principal but maybe there is a way to share another job in the district to make for a better combination,” she said.
In a welcome change, Ms. Holthaus said the district is receiving interest from both teachers and administrators from Washington State. In the past, the reverse was true because Washington typically pays higher wages.
“There is a huge movement to get to Idaho as opposed to the bigger population areas,” she said. “We are getting an influx of teachers who are interested in leaving Washington and coming to Idaho.”
Housing could be the biggest challenge the district faces in filling the jobs.
“We already have one employee who cannot find a house here, so we know it is going to be a challenge,” she said.
Several local employers have said a major obstacle to hiring people from outside the area is housing. At least two people who accepted jobs at Benewah Community Hospital eventually went elsewhere because they could not find housing.
PotlatchDeltic recently added a member to its management team at the St. Maries Complex, but they almost lost their candidate due to lack of housing. It was only after the company ran a quarter-page ad that they were able to find a home for their new hire.
“The housing crunch will probably be the biggest heartache of the entire process,” Ms. Holthaus said. “People who are coming in may be interested in coming but I don’t know if we can get them here without a house.”
Ms. Holthaus acknowledged the district is losing valuable experience within the district, but she is optimistic about the quality of candidates available.
“These are all good principals. I respect all the institutional knowledge they brought to the job and I know what we are losing,” she said. “But I also recognize there could be growth.”
While interviews have not yet started, Ms. Holthaus is certain about the qualities the new principals will share.
“They will be student-centered, have positive attitudes, be flexible and have great communication skills."