A new superintendent/principal will take the helm at Prairie City School District next fall.
Humbolt Elementary sixth-grade teacher Casey Hallgarth will leave his current position in June and begin his new job July 1.
Julie Gurczynski, who has led Prairie City School for the past three years, submitted her resignation with plans to move closer to family at the end of the school year.
Hallgarth, who moved to John Day four years ago to work for Grant School District, said becoming an administrator is something he’s been working toward for a long time.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and my family,” he said, adding he didn’t think an opening would present itself this soon.
He said he’s been working on his administrative degree while gaining teaching experience.
“When I put my name in the hat, I thought what a great learning experience it would be for me,” he said. “They gave me a call to offer the job.”
Lindsay Rausch, school board chairman for the Prairie City School District, said she and others have been impressed with Hallgarth.
“We were struck by his initiative,” she said. “He’s shown a lot of interest in our school. He’s attended the last five or six school board meetings.”
She said another draw is Hallgarth’s interest in staying in the community and learning about being an administrator in a small community.
“Between the enthusiasm and positive interview in a town hall forum with community members, board members and staff, we took input from all three parties, and he matched the criteria for what everybody said they wanted,” she said. “He was a unanimous choice.”
Nancy Hitz, vice chairman of the board, was one of those unanimous voices.
“I’m really excited, and I welcome Casey and the leadership he’s bringing to our school district,” she said.
Gurczynski said she’s enjoyed her experience working for the district.
“The staff worked extremely hard for past three years, and we saw significant growth in our test scores,” she said.
Math scores went up 8 percent, English and language arts up 9 percent and science up 10 percent, she said.
In the past year, the elementary students also had a 10 percent increase in their DIBELS reading scores.
Gurczynski was also pleased to receive a grant to become an Oregon Response to Intervention district at the grade school.
“We truly have a great staff at Prairie City Schools, and I will miss working with them,” she said. “I will also miss the students.”
The students have been friendly, hardworking and fun to be around, she said.
“I loved sitting in the stands watching the ball games, being part of the FFA barbecues and clean-ups, attending the carnival and fun run, plus participating in the homecoming week activities,” she said.
She said, “I wish for all the students that all their dreams will come true.”
Hallgarth said Prairie City School is “on the up side.”
“They already have a great staff established and traditions there,” he said. “I just want to emphasize those qualities and try to make them better. What they have going on right now is great. It’s a tight-knit community.”
Besides teaching, Hallgarth has also enjoyed coaching.
He led the Grant Union girls basketball team as head coach to fourth place at the state championships this year. He also coached Grant Union junior high football and was an assistant varsity coach. Before arriving in John Day, he coached basketball and football in Elgin for seven years.
While at Grant School District, he organized trips to Washington, D.C., for his sixth-graders to take when they reached eighth grade, fundraising during the two years.
Hallgarth and his wife, Heidi, have two children, Cameron, who will soon graduate from Grant Union, and Quinten, finishing his freshman year. Heidi is the office manager at Grant School District.
When asked what he’ll miss about teaching, Hallgarth said seeing the students grow throughout the year.
“They become your class,” he said. “We form a bond, and as teachers we take pride in those relationships.”
Hallgarth said he hopes to bring leadership qualities, as well as cohesiveness, to create a better team atmosphere at Prairie City School District.
“You have teachers who want to make a difference, coaches, classified staff, everybody, they’re there for the right reasons, and that’s the goal, to be there for the kids and their education,” he said.