For years, St. James schools went by the status quo when it came to their administration. One principal for each school, with no overlap or overlay, and minimal chances to get to know staff members at other schools.
However, starting this school year, St. James decided to go their own way.
Now, principals Storbeck and Beck switch back and forth between the high school and Northside Elementary, thus ushering in a new era of administration in St. James.
“This is the first time that Superintendent Cselovszki, Mr. Storbeck and I have heard it,” said Beck. “There was no model for us to follow, so we’re creating one.”
The idea was first mentioned in the spring, as thing rolled into summer, they agreed that this would be the path they chose. The plan was mentioned to the school board as a formality, and the wheels started to roll.
“To a certain extent, we like to have our own entity and be in control in our own school. But I look at it as ‘what is best for our students as a whole’.” said Storbeck.
Beck and Storbeck are no strangers to working with one another. Beck was a former principal at the Northside school, with Storbeck being her assistant principal. Following the resignment of the old principal at St. James High, Beck got the call to take over, and Storbeck assumed the position of principal at Northside.
“I’m doing more of the educational aspect of it, like the teaching and learning kind of things. He’s doing student support services,” said Beck.
Each of them has their own certain strengths in administrating, and each apply it to their role. Beck specializes in working with leadership teams and teachers, while Storbeck’s lie in building relationships with students and families and communicating.
Prior to the shift, both principals had to handle the full duties at each school.
“Superintendent Cselovszki saw us spinning our wheels so often trying to get to that next thing,” said Beck. “And with trying balance that academic and teaching and learning piece with that student support piece.” Now, both of them are being placed where their strengths are. With both handling so many responsibilities, relationships and academic progress stumbled.
With so many responsibilities, parents and students took priority more times than not.
“It’s not going to be perfect, I’ll be the first to admit that,” said Storbeck. “It’s going to be a growth in the process, but that’s typical no matter where you go or what you do. Typically that is going to take a year.”
The goal is to unite the schools, although not physically. There seemed to be a divide between the schools. The hope is that the model to follow the lead of the principals, to be more collaborative across the schools.
The two have met with each department, from top to bottom, K-12, for the first time in years.
“To an extent, I think the elementary teacher miss the normalcy of what it had been the previous three years,” said Storbeck. “Now it’s just not the same responsibilities, so now they need to take their questions to the right person.”
Each knows that they have answered to questions and requests that would more likely be better suited for the other. They also each believe that the administration has gotten stronger thanks to the change, due to more communication across schools.
Storbeck’s main objectives lie with operations, while Beck’s main duties come in the educational leadership.
Superintendent Cselovszki primary goals are within the special education program. All three are responsible for maintaining the district’s strategic goals, as central to effective learning and behavior of both students and staff. This relies on an incredible amount of trust between all three parties.
“This all works because of the quality individuals we work with,” said Storbeck. “Like our Dean of Students, secretary, guidance counselors, and social workers. They’re the glue that keeps us all together and makes this all possible.”
Through two months, it’s been mostly positive reviews from teachers and staff.
“If a problem occurs, let’s take that feedback and be better,” said Beck.
Both think there will be some growing pains through this process.
For a plan to work, it needs to have goals.
This year, Storbeck’s goals are consistency throughout the school district and establishing expectations for students are two of the primary goals. Beck’s goals are knowing k-12 standards and how committed the district is to each individual student, regardless of grade, and making sure that students are aware of what they are supposed to be learning in a classroom.
Currently, there are no other future changes on the table for the administration.
“We just want to focus on this change right now and not worry about anything in the future,” said Beck with a laugh. “If it works, we could be on to something.”
With this shift in administration, St. James hopes to go from following the standard to being the gold standard.