SL School District hires new principals

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Angela Olsen, new Spirit Lake High School Principal.

When students say goodbye to another school year, they'll also say goodbye to a couple of administrators.

An early retirement and a new opportunity recently opened up two principals in the Spirit Lake School District.

Angela Olsen was announced as the new Spirit Lake High School principal on Monday, April 21. Terry Butler will take the elementary principal's position as voted on by the school board on Thursday.

Terry Butler, new Spirit Lake Elementary principal.

Olsen, a current staff member in the district office replaces Kevin Range -- the high school principal for the past two years. Butler, is a teacher in the middle school and fills the void left by Micah Gearhart.

Gearhart was named the Spirit Lake elementary principal one year ago, but accepted another administrative position in March. He will serve as the Valley Elementary and North Fayette Valley seventh- and eighth-grade principal with his move to Elgin in northeast Iowa.

"Micah did a great job in a short period of time," Dr. Smith said. "Now he has decided to move on to a different school district."

Range is accepting early retirement, but doesn't plan to remain idle professionally.

"I don't have anything planned," he said. "I'm exploring a lot of different opportunities -- some in the education realm and some privately."

Range has been instrumental in implementing the school's 1-to-1 initiative. All students now have their own laptops during the school year as a result.

"Some of my favorite moments have been helping change the district to more of a future-focused learning environment," Range said. "Introducing the project-based learning, the standard-based movement and the competency-based learning environment have been milestones -- a lot of work but something I'm very proud of."

Range has been with the district for a total of five years.

"Kevin has done an unbelievable job in coming over from the middle school," Smith said. "He's been a part of so many important initiatives in our district -- his contributions have been unbelievable."

Range said he will miss the students most.

"There's no doubt that I am in education for the kids," Range said. "The kids are the ones that keep you young and after that the staff definitely comes next then the parents and the community. I'll miss it all."

Range has no immediate goals for the future as he steps away from the Spirit Lake District.

Smith said students and faculty members will miss Range's knack for innovation as well.

"Kevin was just somebody that was never afraid to try something new and to challenge teachers and students," Smith said. "We were focused on what's most important -- the student's futures. He had a nice ability to have conversations with people and to bring people on board to do different things and to follow through and make them happen -- some very meaningful initiatives that are now known statewide and looked upon by the Department of Education and other school districts. As a district we have been a leader in a lot of ways and Kevin has been at the forefront of it."

FRESH BUT NOT NEW FACES

The two administration replacements come from within the district and boast a combined 21 years of experience in Spirit Lake. Smith believes they have found the candidates that fit best.

"Both jobs were open and fortunately, for the high school position we've had a great candidate in Angela Olsen who will do a terrific job," the superintendent said. "She's one of the best leaders I've been around and is somebody who understands our school district, understands the high school. She will be a terrific fit in replacing Kevin."

Olsen taught middle school math for five years and has been in the district office for the past two. She has also taught in Algona and Estherville and now works in the learning and development department.

"In her position in the district office, Angela has been a part of leading some of those initiatives in the high school over the last year and she will be a seamless transition," Smith said. "I look for a lot of positives to come from her."

Olsen takes over on July 1.

The Spirit Lake Elementary Principal opening garnered interest from 30 applicants but Smith and the Spirit Lake School Board decided to stay within the district.

"We went through an extensive search and in the end, Terry's communication, his passion for the school district and the fact he has so much knowledge of where we've been and where we are going and what we plan to do in the future is what made him a great fit," Smith said.

Butler has taught at the Spirit Lake Middle School for the past 14 years and brings trusted leadership to the helm.

"We are really excited about his energy and his passion and what he is going to bring to the district," Smith said. "He's been one of our great teachers for a long time and we expect him to do the same as an administrator in our elementary."

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