Patrons of Big Horn County School District No. 1 from North Big Horn County met the five finalists for Principal of Rocky Mountain Elementary School during a special meet and greet event at the RMES Gym Monday night that capped a day of interviews with the school board and individual forums with school staff members for the five.
The five finalists are being considered for the position to replace the retiring Karma Sanders.
Before the face-to-face visiting began, each of the five candidates was give a minute or two to talk about themselves and their background.
First up was Autumn Tempany, who has been teaching for 20 years, much of the time as an elementary school teacher in Burlington.
Tempany explained that she has taught at a variety of grade levels in Burlington and worked as an instructional facilitator at Burlington Schools. She said she also taught in Hawaii for three years at the Malamalama Waldorf Private School and a public charter school in Hilo, noting that she has seen some different strategies from that experience.
She worked a principal internship with Burlington Principal Matt Davidson during the 2015-16 school year, as well, and earned a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from the University of Wyoming in 2017.
“I would love the opportunity to work here,” she said.
Next up was Steven Foley, the current assistant principal and transportation director for the Burlington Schools. Born and raised in Powell, he said he has family “from Lovell to Cody” and has worked in education for 19 years.
Prior to his current role in Burlington, Foley taught at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Caldwell, Idaho, as a Title I reading teacher for eight years, he said, noting that he received a great amount of personal development instruction during that time, and then served as the principal at Washington Elementary School in Caldwell.
He said he earned his BA in elementary education at the University of Wyoming, adding “Go Pokes” for the audience, and later earned a master’s degree in education administration at South Dakota State University.
“I’m super excited to be here and meet everybody, and I, too, would like to work with all of you,” he said.
The third candidate to address the audience was Betsy Sammons of Cowley, currently in her second year as the principal at Greybull Middle School. She also serves as curriculum director and grants coordinator for Big Horn County School District No. 3.
Before taking the position in Greybull, she taught at Lovell Elementary School (fourth and fifth grade) for 17 years.
“I’m very passionate about elementary schools,” she said, adding, “I have a master’s degree in reading, and I also went to the University of Wyoming. I love the community, and I’m excited about this opportunity to get to work here.”
Sammons was also the AdvancED chairman for Lovell Elementary for 10 years, facilitating and leading the Continuous School Improvement Team, and she worked as an administrative intern in 2015-16 in School District No. 2.
Next to introduce himself was Kenneth Dietz, currently the principal of South Side Elementary School in Worland. He started out teaching second grade for three years, third grade for one year and first grade reading in Inkom, Idaho. He then moved to Rock Springs, where he taught fourth grade at Sage Elementary School for one year, then worked as an instructional facilitator for a year, he said, noting that he received top level professional development “all around the country learning from some of the best people in education.”
He served as the principal at Desert School Elementary/Middle School in Wamsutter for a year and a half, then transferred to open a new elementary school in Rock Springs, Stagecoach Elementary, which he said was the largest elementary school in the community. He said he hired all of the staff and put the curriculum in place.
“I really enjoyed that, but the way that’s set up in Rock Springs, all of the new students coming to Rock Springs go to that elementary school, so we’d have days where we got 12 new kids,” Dietz said, “and so for me I was not interested in it being like a machine. I want to know the kids, I want to know their names. I want to know your children’s names and what challenges they’re facing and what they need.”
He accepted a position at East Side Elementary in Worland in 2016 and moved to South Side in 2017.
“I’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of success in working with students and having students reach really high levels of achievement through the PLC process and looking at response to intervention, which is what we’re doing to help your students be successful if they’re struggling,” Dietz said. “I’m also excited about the potential opportunity to be here in these communities and work with your children.”
A native of Missouri, Allison Lewis is currently living in Licking, Mo., but will soon be moving to Big Horn County since her husband has been hired at the Georgia-Pacific Wallboard Plant.
“I’m excited to be here. My husband has a transfer position at Georgia-Pacific in Lovell, so we’re looking at homes to be around here,” she said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am about it.”
Lewis said she taught first grade, taught K-8 physical education for four years and currently serves as a junior high principal and activities and athletics director in Licking, also working at the high school level.
“So I have lots of different titles and I’ve worn lots of different hats,” she said. “I was talking to Mr. (Ben) Smith earlier about the buses and how many of those I’ve driven. I grew up on a farm, and my dad is a cattle rancher, and I’ve done that my whole life. They live about a mile from me now, so me moving out a long ways away is hard for them.
“I’m excited to be here, and I can’t wait to meet you and your kiddos. I have a passion for kids and I want them to learn. That’s my job. And I want to help support teachers to make sure that they do that.”
Members of the public were then encouraged to mingle with and ask individual questions of the candidates as well as fill out survey forms on the five.
By David Peck