These are the three finalists for the QSD director job
Colleen Frerks, Alicen Gaytley and Dr. Sheila Gerrish seek to become the next director of teaching and learning at the Quincy School District.
Frerks, of Quincy, Gaytley, of Wenatchee, and Gerrish, of Lynnwood, met with community members on March 15, fielding questions and concerns with teachers, principals, parents and the media.
Here are some of the candidates’ answers, in alphabetical order, edited for clarity and space. Given that one of the candidates is a local person who applied for the job last year, not every candidate was asked the same questions.
Colleen Frerks, principal on special assignment, Ancient Lakes Elementary, Quincy
QVPR: Why are you applying for the job again?
CF: The same reasons I was interested in this position last year are still true. I really like working with teams of people, and in this role we can work together on curriculum development, on figuring out what our best high-level instructional practices, and how to use our assessment in the best way to make good decisions about teaching and learning.
QVPR: Why are you a better candidate than you were 12 months ago?
CF: Because of the opportunity I had in my role as principal on special assignment, I was able to support (incumbent teaching and learning director) Dr. Amy (Torrens-Harry) in the teaching-and-learning department on various projects. Before, I learned about the theory behind about making good decisions. But this actually gave me the practice of working with her on various projects. It was amazing, almost like having an internship this year. I was also able to observe her leading an ELA adoption process, so it was the best of both worlds: Watch someone with experience and then practice doing it yourself. I don’t know what the future brings, but I don’t see myself trying to move from this position. This position has been a dream goal for me for a very long time.
QVPR: Where does Colleen Frerks go if this doesn’t happen for her this year?
CF: It’s not my intention to leave town or do other things at this point. I’m a Quincy girl, my kids are Quincy kids, and there’s good work to be done here, as a principal, and continuing to be a mentor to some of our newer administrators.
QVPR: How big of a plus for you is the fact that you don’t have to go building-to-building, saying “Hi, I’m Colleen”?
CF: It’s a huge advantage. Now that I have been in the district for so many years, and this year in particular, I have worked alongside teachers and principals in every building but one, QIA.
QVPR: How big of a challenge is to take on a job like this in a year with so many changes: new schools, new enrollment configurations, etc.?
CF: That’s one of the projects I have been involved in this year, helping with a lot of those changes, so it’s great that I have been involved in some of those decisions, so I can understand the background behind them.
Alicen Gaytley, assistant director for instructional programs, Wenatchee School District
QVPR: What made the job attractive to you?
AG: This job feels like it might have been personally written for me and my passions. It incorporates all of the things that I think are most important in education, and that is creating a system that supports teaching and learning.
QVPR: What makes you the right candidate?
AG: In my experience as assistant director for instructional programs, I have worked with all levels, K-12, our AVID program, our Highly Capable program, and I feel like I can leverage all those experiences in this role.
QVPR: Wenatchee is a much bigger district; would that present a challenge or make it easier to do the job in Quincy?
AG: It would be a slightly different role. In my current role, I have a smaller range of influence, because I oversee HiCap, AVID, AP (Advanced Placement), a lot of teachers and programs and students. But in a smaller district, I will really be able to roll up my sleeves and get to work with all our levels. That’s really exciting to me.
It’s the perfect opportunity, with this reconfiguration. I come from a district that has the K-5 model of elementary school, middle schools and high school, so I’m very familiar with that. I think I could leverage my experience to help support in those big changes.
QVPR: Being the assistant director at Wenatchee to being the director of T&L in Quincy; what is the learning curve like?
AG: Some of the work will be very similar, but I’m looking forward to learning a lot. I have had a lot of close working relationships with people in charge of the different parts of this job that I will now be doing by myself: district assessment coordinator, curriculum director, all that is rolled into one position. So, even though I have experience with all those different things, being the one person who gets to do all of that will be a learning curve, of course.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have this position available at this point in my career. This is a dream job for me and I’m very committed to this role. I know it’s going to take a long time to see the kind of change that I want to lead, so I need to see that through.
Dr. Sheila Gerrish, interim assistant principal, Lynnwood Elementary and Mountlake Terrace Elementary schools
QVPR: What made the job attractive to you?
SG: First of all, I grew up in Ephrata, so I’m coming back home. My parents still live in Ephrata. Then, the job itself is one I have wanted to do. My career path is leading me to instruction and teaching and learning, and assessment, so it was a perfect fit. I was very excited to see the job posting.
QVPR: How long have you been in this area of education, setting up curriculum?
SG: This would be a new arena. I have been a principal or assistant principal for over 15 years. I have had two years in a district office taking care of Title I, but I have not been an instruction and curriculum leader, yet.
QVPR: How steep of a learning curve is it?
SG: Any new job in education has a steep learning curve, so it’s one of those things you know going in, that you are going to learn a lot really fast.
Making a commitment to come back to Eastern Washington and being in this area where I have roots, it’s an easy commitment to make. My husband grew up in Eastern Washington. Just being back here for an interview feels really good.
Job No. 1 would be to get the lay of the land. Find out what’s working. Dr. Amy has amazing things going, and I don’t want to muck up things that are already in process. I’m not someone who comes in and says, ‘Oh, we have to change because I’m new.’ I don’t believe in that.
QVPR: What’s your biggest strength as a candidate?
SG: My educational level, the fact that I have a doctorate, the fact that I have a variety of experiences in different-sized school districts as well as different schools with different learning needs. I have what I call a ‘servant leader’ attitude, an attitude (that says) ‘What can I do to help?’ This is a position for ‘How do I help the students, the teachers helping the students, the principals helping the teachers?’ That’s what I’m all about.
QVPR: How are you prepared to deal with a different demographic than what you see in your current job?
SG: The two schools that I’m in right now, the poverty rate is over 50 percent, free and reduced lunches. The schools I have been in previously all have had high poverty rates and high rates of ELL (English Language Learners) students. The experiences I have had working to meet the needs of our disadvantaged students would put me in a really good place to be the director of teaching and learning.
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org