District to shift school principals

Move rearranges Moorcroft, Hulett and Bear Lodge administrations

By Sarah Pridgeon


Crook County School District has announced that its leadership team will undergo big changes over the coming weeks. Many of the school principals will swap places as part of the push for to improve the district, says Superintendent Byron Stutzman.

“Dr. Darlene Hartman-Hallam will become the Bear Lodge High School principal and work with Teresa Brown as a team for Bear Lodge High School and curriculum and instruction,” he explains.

“Linda Wolfskill will become the Hulett principal; Dale Petersen will become the Moorcroft Elementary principal; and Jason Moss will become the Moorcroft Assistant principal.”

Changes have been in motion for several months, says the superintendent, and were officially approved by the Board of Trustees this week.

“I just want to make this district better and I think these movements will help to do that,” he says.

“Each principal, each member of the leadership team, has a certain skill set and I’m trying to put them where that skill set will work best. The good thing is that they’re pretty excited about it.”

Stutzman has spoken at length with Mrs. Wolfskill about her particular move, he says. Currently the elementary principal in Moorcroft, she will now take the helm at the Hulett school.

“Linda’s forte is individualizing instruction and also she is a native of Hulett. It’s her home and she was a teacher up there,” says the superintendent.

“She’s familiar with the culture and the climate and I think she can hit the ground running.”

Part of Stutzman’s vision for the district is to “individualize education”. He believes this to be something that Mrs. Wolfskill can work on at Hulett School before it is taken to a larger, district-wide scale.

“Mrs. Wolfskill is a champion of differentiated instruction so that every student is working at their own level. I think she can take what she knows well and apply it in Hulett to help that school improve,” he explains.

“If you look at what’s happened in Moorcroft, that school with our poorest demographics is highest scoring. That’s leadership – she’s got that talent.”

Though sad to leave Moorcroft, Mrs. Wolfskill is looking forward to her new role.

“Dr. Hallam-Hartman has continued to establish a great foundation for a learning climate at Hulett and I am honored to be the one to help build. It is a great staff and I would like to help them realize their goals for Hulett School as well as work collaboratively to bring some innovation in learning that will benefit students,” she says.

“It is tough to leave Moorcroft after nine years, and I will miss that community terribly, but Mr. Petersen and Mr. Moss will continue to see the staff into the new school and realize the vision for Moorcroft.”

Mr. Peterson, currently the vice principal, will meanwhile step up to take over the role of Moorcroft Elementary principal. Quite simply, says the superintendent, this is a natural progression.

“I’m really happy to be here at Moorcroft Elementary. This is my third year and I really enjoy the staff and students and am thrilled to be moving up,” says Mr. Peterson.

“I do have some really big shoes to fill. Linda did a great job, so I liken it to stepping in after a coach like Vince Lombardi.”

Mr. Peterson says he will continue to push important aspects such as literacy and math and to implement the Common Core Standards. He will also continue the push to make learning as relevant as possible to all kids through, for example, hands-on projects.

“I hope to use my ideas and talents to move forward and continue the good things that are happening here,” he says, explaining that he would like to see Moorcroft Elementary continue to be academically strong and welcoming for both parents and students.

Working as vice president under Mr. Peterson will be Mr. Moss, currently the principal of Bear Lodge High School.

“I’m moving Jason to become the vice principal because I want him to experience an elementary,” says Stutzman.

“Jason will be a great educational leader at some point in time, my crystal ball is telling me, and having that elementary background will be a good thing for him – as will working under somebody like Dale, who is very systematic.”

A father of several young children himself, Mr. Moss is excited to work with elementary students.

“It’ll be good to be in the same school as my kids, as we’ll probably be looking to move over there just because of the commute and weather. I worked a year in an elementary school in Rock Springs and I had a great time, I just love little kids and especially the kindergardeners,” he comments.

“It’ll be easy to transition in that sense and the curriculum changes and greater emphasis on data will be, not hard, but different. I’m looking forward to building relationships with the younger kids.”

Dr. Hallam-Hartman, currently the principal at the Hulett School, will share two roles with Curriculum Director Teresa Brown. Between them, they will take over the roles of principal at the Bear Lodge High School and Curriculum Director.

“I’m moving Darlene down to the Bearlodge High School because she has a skill set I want to utilize with Mrs. Brown. She’s a very data-driven decision maker and I want her and Teresa to tag team together,” says the superintendent.

“Teresa will help at the school and Darlene will help at Central Office. I’ll be able to use both their skill sets in both places, because both of them have some very quality skills that will help the district perform better.”

For Mrs. Brown, the change will provide her the opportunity to spend more time with the students.

“Mrs. Brown needs to be with kids, at least part of the time – she’s incredibly good at the relationship with kids and the ones over here need that adult caring relationship,” says Stutzman.

It’s a summary that Mrs. Brown agrees with.

“My role is all-encompassing, so it’s going to be nice to have some help with it,” she says, before happily moving on to idea of being closer to the classroom.

“I love that part – I love the kids. If you sit up in the ivory tower all day, you never get to be in the classroom and I think it’s important to be at ground level so you can see what’s happening.”

The most complicated of the changes, this shared role has not yet been worked out in fine detail.

“They’ve agreed to it, they think it’s a good plan and we want to give it our best shot,” says Stutzman. “Now I need to have us all sit down and take this from my idea of how it should work to how they know it will apply.”

Stutzman is thrilled both with the new configuration of the district and the reaction of the principals.

“I couldn’t make this work without the unselfish desire to improve the district that these professionals possess,” he says.

“They are true leaders and have stepped up their game to make our district a better place for student learning. I am proud to have them on my team and I am happy they collaborate together to make these changes work.”

Sundance school principals staying put

Of the principals not making moves, Mark Broderson will remain in charge of Sundance High School and Brian Hartwig will continue in his role as principal of Sundance Elementary.

At Monday’s meeting, the Board of Trustees did not renew the contract of Principal Jeff Rieckman, Moorcroft High School. Rieckman has held the role for two years.

Several staff members and parents expressed support for Rieckman and asked that the board reconsider. Teacher Jerry Fischbach, for example, said that the principal has done a fine job in the short time he has been here and that the majority of people in Moorcroft trust, like and respect him.

Clinton Jones, a parent from Moorcroft, suggested that a decision should not be made so quickly after someone is called to office. It feels like he should be given a little more time, he said.

Rieckman will remain in his role until the end of the school year and the position will be advertised, says Superintendent Stutzman.