“Dr. Gander’s willingness to take on problems and attained leadership abilities turned our school around in a relatively short period of time. He calmed the school atmosphere by centering our decisions on three things: a) district policy and b) consistency in process when making tough decisions, c) the use of our district vision.”

— Andy Wilburn
School Board Director, Long Creek SD

Long Creek School

2007 to 2009

Principal – Grades K-12
58 students 

Long Creek School District
P.O. Box 429, 375 East Main
Long Creek, OR 97856

What I accomplished in my Principal role at Long Creek:

  • I worked closely with the parents and teachers to write a grant for the ETHOS music program and the Missoula Children’s Theatre to spend time in our small community.
  • I lead the development of academic cohort approach with inclusion of some Advanced Placement program courses through the hiring of part-time teachers and sharing teachers with nearby schools.
  • We came together and developed a comprehensive staff development program that helped each teacher of our multi-aged classroom implement the Oregon content standards and new Essential Skills Standards.
  • We designed an assessment process through training in formative and summative assessment practices based on an annual writing work-sample calendar.

Nate Scholls of ETHOS Music teaches LC students rhythm skills with his drum.

Long Creek School was a school family like no other I had participated in. Teachers had students in their classroom for two to three year stretches and loved being a part of the student’s families. Our staff turn-over was pretty small for such a remote location. This closeness fostered a great foreign student exchange program that helped raise the academic expectations of our school while bringing plenty of excitement to our sports teams.

In the two years that I was there we grew a great deal, putting behind us the negative and focusing on the positive, after what seemed like years of struggle. I feel this was due to a concerted effort on all parties to make our small school work. To be positive about the changes that needed to be made and to communicate effectively in our school before going out to the community as a whole with our message.

As I look back on my time in Long Creek I am thankful for the opportunity to learn how to be a superintendent and principal at the same time. I appreciate the sense of family that was developed whether it was the opportunity to be a host parent of foreign exchange students, or bringing the lasagna to a high school video game party. What really got me excited about continuing to be a small school superintendent was spending time with students, whether it was on the bus to a game or teaching a technology class.

What I learned in my Principal role at Long Creek:

  • I learned to watch and listen to fully understand the multi-aged classroom approach. I could lend my voice in a few areas of reading assessment and math curriculum, but watching those teachers work in small groups was a wonderful experience.
  • Food, especially chili, is a good way to attract people! It can open doors to celebrate your school’s successes, and maybe probe some for more support!
  • Sometimes the community dreams about projects that as superintendent you have to find a way of stalling. We had designs on refurbishing our playing fields so we could field an 8-man football team. The dads were ready to go, except we did not have the players for a complete team. I learned how to re-direct energy to establishing a football cooperative with a local school to see if we could sustain that momentum.

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