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For the week of April 4 through April 10, 2001

More than money attracts new principals

Express Staff Writer

Even though it means taking substantial cuts in pay, two school principals from outside Idaho have decided to begin working at Wood River High School and Bellevue Elementary School. Both say they were drawn here by the Wood River Valley’s quality of life and sense of community.

Their decisions came amid ongoing concern that attracting and keeping quality educators in Idaho may be hindered because the state pays its teachers and administrators some of the lowest wages in the country.

The Idaho Association of School Administrators reported middle and high school principals in this state will earn on average $63,149 this school year. Nationwide, the mean income for middle school principals was $73,877, and for high school principals was $79,839, during the 1999-2000 school year, the National Association of Secondary School Principals reported. Blaine County School District superintendent Jim Lewis said local school administrators earn from $60,000 to $80,000.

Grant Hume, who is currently principal of the 1,600-student Henry M. Jackson High School in Everett, Wash., replaces Bill Resko as Wood River High School principal this fall. Hume said he’ll make almost $10,000 a year less than he does now.

In his recent job search, Hume said, he turned down an offer to be principal at a high school in Nevada even though the position there pays more than it does here.

Hume said his pension plan in Everett gives a financial incentive to retire now because he’s worked for 33 years in Everett schools. But at age 54, he’s not ready to do that. Last summer, he and his wife Nancy Hume visited the Wood River Valley for the first time during a vacation, and he said, simply, "We thought this would be a nice place to be."

He said he also likes the idea of working in the smaller Wood River High School, which is about half the size of the school where he currently works. And he’s motivated by the district’s plans to build a new $19 million high school, made possible by a tax levy Blaine County voters approved last year.

Gary St. George, who lives in Bellevue, Wash., and worked as a teacher and principal there for 31 years, said he is also attracted to come here by the Blaine County School District’s construction plans, which total nearly $40 million over 10 years.

"Growth mode is always fun to be in," he said.

The district hired George to replace Bill Quann as Bellevue Elementary School principal in the fall. Jessie Gage, in the district’s human resource department, said Quann plans to return to teaching.

George said the pay is a "little less" in Blaine County than where he’s coming from, but he’ll do a lot more skiing here, which should compensate for the financial difference.

On March 28, the district also hired Hemingway Elementary School teacher Donald Haisley to replace Jon Dominick, who is retiring as principal of that school.

Last week, district officials interviewed applicants to replace Wood River Middle School assistant principal Ray Grosvenor, who is also retiring.

Superintendent Lewis said he thinks the wages offered here are "fairly competitive, even though we can’t match some of the states." He, too, believes the community draws educators here, saying he was "just really pleased with the quality of candidates" who applied for the four open positions.

In all, they totaled 70 applicants from Idaho, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska and Texas.


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