April 25, 2020 — Siuslaw High School Principal Kerri Tatum will be moving on from her position at the end of the year, with current Vice Principal Garth Gerot taking her place in the fall as interim principal.
Tatum, who had made the decision to leave weeks before the novel coronavirus COVID-19 upended the school schedule, has accepted a position at the Greater Albany Public Schools to be closer to her family.
“When I came here, it was going to be for five years because I wanted to make sure I was here for my kids — so they didn’t have to change high schools,” said Tatum, who was first named principal in 2014. “But then I got to love the community and the staff I was working with and ended up staying a couple more years.”
While Tatum was expecting to finish out her career at Siuslaw with the usual end-of-the-school-year traditions, COVID-19 changed all that.
“I’m really proud of our high school staff and how quickly and positively they were able to adapt to distance learning,” Tatum said. “They have done absolutely everything that has been asked of them quickly and efficiently and with a positive attitude. It’s been just as stressful on them as it has been on our students, our parents, our administrators. But just the way they always do, they have come together as a team. It is really humbling.”
Tatum’s new position in Albany will be as the director of Innovation and Learning Technologies.
“I’m really excited about that because it’s going to be a challenge,” she said. “It’s a new position and will really allow me to support staff and administrators with all of the challenges that we’re facing right now as we transition into more technology-based learning.”
Tatum said it also fits with her background, as she was an engineer for Intel before she began working in education.
“It’s really taking the two things that I've been the most passionate about and putting them together. I’m excited to be able to be a support person,” she said.
The move will also allow Tatum to be closer to her family.
“My parents, my kids, my extended family — all of the people I grew up with are there, so I’m kind of moving home,” she said.
The district has been searching for a permanent replacement for Tatum during the past weeks, with the goal of assuring continuity in a rapidly changing educational environment.
“While we do have some quality candidates to replace Ms. Tatum, there’s been a lot of shift since the pandemic happened,” said Siuslaw School District Superintendent Andrew Grzeskowiak. “At this point in time, I’m going to appoint Garth Gerot as interim principal for Siuslaw High School for next year, and we will look to hire an assistant principal behind him for next school year. This provides a little more stability.”
Gerot is in his third year as assistant principal. Before coming to Siuslaw, he was an administrator for Willamette Leadership Academy for four years and a classroom teacher for 10 years for grades 6 through 12.
“I was a struggling student as a kid,” Gerot said in a statement released to the media on Thursday. “School certainly wasn’t an environment in which I felt I excelled and certainly wasn’t a place I imagined spending my career. But after graduating from college and some soul searching, I was determined to find a job where I could have a great positive impact on as many people as possible — and education seemed to be it.”
After teaching for a number of years, Gerot said he applied for an administrative position because he found satisfaction in supporting an entire system.
“I loved helping teachers become better and I loved to see that hard work reflected in the students we serviced at our school,” he said. “I love collaborating with staff and, after only two short years, managed to see alignment around a common vision for our school and a team that put students first.
“This is when I caught the bug and realized administration was a place of great satisfaction for me.”
As for his work at Siuslaw High School, Gerot said working with older students preparing for the next step in life was exhilarating.
“I was no longer finding myself saying, ‘When you get to high school,’ and instead discuss getting students to graduation and helping them gain the skills necessary along the way to pursue a life of passion beyond high school,” Gerot said.
“I’m really happy that Garth is taking over,” Tatum said. “Thinking about leaving this year the way it’s ending had me feeling really guilty about leaving. But I’m really happy that he’s going to take over because the staff and the students know him and trust he will do a good job.”