November 8, 2005
Whittell High School Principal Janie Gray will resign after this school year and move back to Texas to spend time with her family.
The announcement was made during a Tuesday meeting of the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees.
“I’m certainly going to miss her leadership,” Superintendent John Soderman said.
Gray is in her third year as head of the small school in Zephyr Cove. Last weekend she traveled to the Texas area to visit family, including three grandchildren.
Her tenure has been checkered with highs, such as Whittell being ranked as one of the highest-performing schools in Nevada based on test scores, and lows, such as a mass teacher absence believed by administers to have been done to embarrass Gray on a school evaluation day.
“Douglas County has a great school district,” Gray said. “I’ve been privileged to be part of the efforts to focus on student achievement.”
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Rich Alexander, assistant superintendent of human services, will advertise the opening in the upcoming months via trade publications and the Internet. Alexander hopes to bring a replacement to the board by March.
“The sooner, the better,” Alexander said.
A priority will be placed on how long a replacement could commit to the job, Alexander said. Gray was the school’s sixth principal since 1996. She has been an educator since 1967.
Citing former principal Mario Gatto, who vowed five years to head the school but resigned after two, trustee President Sharla Hales said a candidate’s pledge to longevity is taken with a grain of salt.
“It’s one thing to make that a high priority,” Hales said. “It’s another thing to make it a reality.”
Whittell has been deemed an “exemplary” school based on test scores related to No Child Left Behind, a federal act aimed to improve student performance on academics. Whittell was one of only four other schools in the state to receive the recognition.
Advanced Placement courses have also been introduced to the curriculum during Gray’s time. Hired from Carson Valley Middle School where she was a vice principal, she was known for her no-nonsense approach and attention to academics.
But some in the district have found her difficult to communicate with. Community meetings have taken place after hours at the school to give parents and others the chance to speak with Gray.
In her first year on the job, 10 of 17 teachers did not report to work on a day in October when “Data-In-A-Day,” a time when outside educators evaluate classroom teachings, was scheduled. Gray was upset, the district alleged it was a planned protest and the matter was heard by an arbitrator earlier this year.
The 20-page decision by Carson City attorney Wayne Chimarusti determined there wasn’t enough evidence to prove a planned protest, which is prohibited in a teacher’s contract, took place. But several teachers were disciplined for violating sick leave policy and lying to district administrators.
In addition, the suspension of two seniors at last year’s prom for possessing or using prescription ibuprofen outraged the community. It led to a student sit-in at the school which was disrupted when Gray contacted authorities.
A committee of teacher, parent and administrative representatives will assist in the selection process, Alexander said. School officials seemed pleased with Gray’s work.
“I’d say I’d like to see (the replacement have) a lot of qualities Janie brought to it,” Soderman said.
“I think the new principal will be coming into a very solid school,” Hales added.
In other news, trustee Rod Beck resigned from his seat on the board. Beck, who has worked in the education field for 28 years, sat on the board for five months. He said he excused himself so he could apply for the superintendent position.
Those interested in filling Beck’s seat must live in northeast Carson Valley in the Johnson Lane area and must be registered to vote. For more information, contact the district office at (775) 782-5134.