PRAIRIE CITY — The new superintendent/principal at Prairie City School is well-accustomed to small town schools.
Julie Gurczynski’s career in education has included small schools on both sides of her home state of Oregon, as well as remote Gambell, Alaska, in the Bering Sea.
Gurczynski takes on the Prairie City position previously held by Ryan Gerry the past three years.
Gerry is now the principal at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School in John Day.
Gurczynski was born and raised in Portland, graduating from Beaverton High School.
She has a bachelor’s degree in business and fashion merchandising from Oregon State University in Corvallis. She received a master’s of arts in teaching and her administrative license from George Fox University in Newberg.
Gurczynski began her teaching career at Kennedy High School in Mt. Angel, where she taught family and consumer sciences, health and careers.
It was while there that she learned to love small communities and small schools.
“I love the connection small communities have with their schools,” Gurczynski said.
After 18 years at Mt. Angel, she ventured to Gambell on St. Lawrence Island in the middle of the Bering Sea.
“I was closer to Russia than Nome,” Gurczynski said.
She said the school of 200 students, grades K-12, was 100 percent Native Alaskan – Siberian Yupik. During her two years there, she was the assistant principal and ran the school during her second year, after the principal had a stroke.
Gurczynski returned to Oregon to become the principal at North Powder School. While there, the Oregon native, whose great-grandfather trekked along the Oregon Trail, enjoyed learning about Eastern Oregon.
Other interests include gardening, walking her dog and traveling.
Her family includes Hank, her husband of 18 years, who works in outside sales for the sawmill industry, four stepchildren and five grandchildren.
Gurczynski said she looks forward getting to know the students, staff and community members in Prairie City.
The best part about working in education, she added, is watching students grow and change and discover and set their own goals and paths in life.
“I like feeling like I had a small piece of making that happen,” Gurczynski said.