Siuslaw schools welcome the new school year

Photos by Chantelle Meyer

More than 35 new staff members join district

Aug. 31, 2019 — On Thursday, nearly 240 teachers, administrators, faculty and staff met for the Siuslaw School District All Staff Meeting and 2019-20 Kick Off at Siuslaw Middle School.

“Welcome back to the 2019-20 school year,” said Siuslaw Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak. “We have a lot of new faces in the crowd.”

For the meeting, Siuslaw Food Service Director David Bitner led his staff in the creation of a breakfast for people to enjoy. Additional tables eventually had to be set up due to the number of attendees.

To start the presentation, Grzeskowiak introduced the Siuslaw School Board, including Paul Burns, Dennis King, Suzanne Mann-Heintz and Bob Sneddon who were in attendance, as well as John Barnett, Dianna Pimlott and Guy Rosinbaum. He also introduced the Siuslaw Budget Committee, consisting of Brittany Hornung, Cameron Jagoe, Megan Messmer and Cindy Spinner, and said that there are currently three open positions.

“If you know someone who is interested in the budget, send them to the district office,” Grzeskowiak said.

This was followed by Florence Community PTA, which presented its new leadership for the year, naming Crystal Osburn as new president, Cori Hanson as vice president, Jasmine Lewis as secretary and Diane McCalmont as treasurer.

 “We can make every child’s potential a reality — but I need more believers,” Osburn said. “I need you, and I know how much time and effort that you all put into this for everyday school. … Believe in us and what we have to offer you.”

She declared a desire to sign up 100 new staff into the PTA’s membership. More information and registration forms are available at

On Friday, Florence Community PTA announced that 135 new members signed up on Thursday alone.

Members of the group also created a display featuring buckets of apples for the staff: “Roses are red, apples are too, we look forward to spending this school year with you!”

“Let us be here for you, let us help you in anything you need, and believe in us by signing up today,” Osburn said.

Other co-educational partners were also introduced, including Rotary Club of Florence, with President-Elect Kim Erickson talking about Rotary-funded grants, fellowships and scholarships available to people in the district.

Grzeskowiak then recognized years of service in the district with the presentation of longevity pins. With 15 years of dedicated service were Sarah Girard and Terry Bunner; with 20 were Kelly Lonien and Cheryl Chipps; and with 25 were Tyrah Forbes and Gina Castro-Brandt.

“Our last acknowledgement for 20 years of dedicated service to the district is a colleague that can’t be here today, Mr. Scott Anderson,” Grzeskowiak said, prompting a minute of standing applause from the gathered staff members. “I know we’ve spent some time this week thinking of and remembering Scott. We had a grief support open house last night that was attended by members of the community that needed to be here. We’re planning the same event for the first Wednesday night of school after the kids have been back. People are still finding out about the tragic loss of Scott, and we want to make that service available to everyone.”

Afterwards, Grzeskowiak recognized the district’s substitute teachers.

“It is their dedication that allows you to take care of business when you can’t be in the classroom. The typical person on this list averages about 300 hours. … That’s 43 days of school, one-quarter of the year,” he said. “All of our substitutes, whether they are here for a day or 40+ days, they are important in keeping contact with the kids that’s uniform throughout the year.”

For the 2019-20 year, Siuslaw Director of Special Programs Lisa Utz introduced new staff in her department:

  • Kathleen Grove, special education at SHS
  • Jaculin Johnson, life skills teacher at SHS
  • Pam Rasmussen, special education teacher at SES
  • Tori Shubin, special education teacher at SMS

“As you know, it’s hard to hire special education teachers, and we have an incredible team. Depend on them,” Utz said.


Many of the new teachers at Siuslaw this school year.

SHS Principal Kerri Tatum and Assistant Principal Garth Gerot then introduced new staff at the high school:

  • Angela Apodaca, life skills educational aide
  • Steve Campbell, life skills educational aide
  • Clay Ghylin, Career-Technical Education (CTE) teacher of construction and woodshop
  • Laurie Hiatt, life skills educational aide
  • Charles “Chuck” Johnson, PE and health teacher
  • Sam Johnson, math teacher
  • Junko Morimoto, life skills educational aide
  • Christine Newlan, life skills educational aide
  • Kathy Scott, life skills educational aide
  • Timothy Tregoning, CTE teacher of autoshop
  • Lonie Wright, Jr., custodian

“We were lucky enough to bring our life skills program in house, so some of the people on our list are not necessarily new to the high school, but will be new to our Siuslaw School District team officially,” Tatum said.


The administration team of Siuslaw School District

Next, SMS Principal Andy Marohl introduced first the new assistant principal, Darci Stuller, before introducing new staff at the middle school:

  • Lisa Crader, educational aide
  • Lona Dengler, PE teacher
  • Valerie Graybill, educational aide
  • Nicholas Johnson, seventh-grade social studies
  • Jaimisyn Kopilec, Title I math intervention and science teacher
  • Janet Mitchell, social emotional teacher
  • Korina Mitchell, life skills educational aide
  • Ryan Roach, special education teacher
  • Julian “Juno” Trujillo, custodian
  • Lindsey Ulrich, educational aide

SES Principal Mike Harklerode also introduced his new assistant principal, Leonard Ulrich, and the new staff at the elementary school:

  • Alexandria Bottger, fifth-grade teacher
  • Rebeca Chapman, first-grade teacher
  • Angela DeSarro, fourth-grade teacher
  • Vanessa Flosi, educational aide
  • Elisabeth Gardner, counselor
  • Krystal Heckel, educational aide
  • Jennifer Hutton, food services
  • Lyndsey Keppol, educational aide
  • Susan MacTaggart, secretary
  • Heather parker, fifth-grade teacher
  • Jessica Roberts, educational aide
  • Carolyn Sparman, life skills educational aide
  • Deborah Whitley, educational aide

The district also welcomes Angela Uhling as a bus driver and Thomas Kyelberg into the food service division, as well as new student teachers.

“There’s so many new people, and it’s so awesome,” Utz said.


The district's new classified staff

After a brief break, Grzeskowiak and Utz led short presentations about goals for the 2019-20 year, as well as updates to federal programs.

“We’re going to continue with much of what we did last year,” Grzeskowiak said. “The only way to initiate a change is to actually follow through with the action. … We’re keeping on track.”

These goals include increased student resiliency, continuous improvement and the inclusion of funds and goals from the Student Success Act and School Improvement Fund. In the last year, staff was able to give input about additional staffing and programs available through the Student Success Act.

 “We have some goal areas that we have to hit, and these are state-mandated areas where we’ve placed the funds that we initially received,” Grzeskowiak said. “In January, there will be another roll-out and we will begin planning for the next three years.”

Goals for these new funds will be spent on class size reduction, student health and safety programs, expanded learning time and expanded learning experiences.

According to Grzeskowiak, much of this year’s increased staffing is due to these funds and requests from a survey of the rest of the staff. Changes also include a middle school behavioral support program, additional teachers, grade-level aides and a counselor and full-time assistant principals at both the middle and elementary schools, as well as increased wireless internet accessibility and additional food services and custodial staff.

Additional things coming for the district this fall and next semester will be a covered walkway for the kindergarten, night school classes for the high school this spring, security enhancements across the district and bringing in a nurse and district librarian/media specialist.

To access funds from the Student Success Act and School Improvement Fund, the state has four mandated goal areas that “are key intervention points for schools along the way,” Grzeskowiak said. These are tracking third-grading reading, having regular attendance, making sure ninth grade is on track to graduate and helping students graduate on time or as fifth-year completers.

Siuslaw will also be implementing a way to address those goals in in ways that are measurable and trackable, which “makes it absolutely clear to you and the community the goals and what we’re working on,” Grzeskowiak said.

These data forms will also link teacher action to student outcome and hopeful success.

“Regardless of a child’s homelife, they have the ability to grow and succeed. That’s done when they get support here,” Grzeskowiak said.

As teachers began heading out to finish final preparations for the start of school this Tuesday and Wednesday, Grzeskowiak left the teachers and staff with a message about taking care of themselves.

“Take care of yourself so you can take care of others,” he said. “Keep an eye and ear out for everybody. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they need some help. And know, you’re the reason that some of our kids come to school every single day. Period. Never doubt that. … You are important to a kid, and they are here because of you.

“You probably have the greatest job on planet earth.”

 For more information about Siuslaw School District, visit For additional photos, visit


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