“Dr. Gander’s innovativeness and flexibility in working with students, teachers and the public has earned him an enviable reputation as an excellent educator and leader who truly cares.”

— Dr. Brian Walker
Superintendent Dos Palos JUSD.

Bryant Middle School

1993 to 1996 

Assistant Principal
Grades 5-8

Health and
Physical Education
Grades 7-8
550 students

Dos Palos Oro Loma
Joint Unified
School District
2041 Almond Street
Dos Palos, CA 93620

What I learned from my time at Bryant Middle School:

  • Giving professionals a nudge in the directions they had not previously envisioned can open up leadership strengths across their work experience. Showing you have faith in their problem solving allows others to take “risky” steps as they grow in their abilities.
  • Federal education programs can be a labyrinth of “…do this…don’t do that…” but in the end they provided school with funding that can change their students’ opportunities substantially over time.
  • A lifetime of working with families cannot prepare you for some of the challenging situations I would experience in the world of administration.
  • Transitioning to an administrative position from teacher in a school was a unique experience. You know the staff, but they view you differently. This helped me understand some of the isolation an administrator sometimes feels.

What we accomplished at Bryant Middle School:

  • We used Heide Hayes-Jacobs work to map our year 7 and 8 English and Social Studies programs. The result was the development of a Humanities Block that integrated reading and writing more effectively for our second language learners.
  • With our counselor we began a student study team process that met weekly to work out issues teachers and students were facing in the classroom.
  • A clean Program Quality Review can be a great relief for a staff who is diligent about their self-reflection and future needs assessment.
  • We created a student/parent handbook that supported our dual language population improving new student transition into Bryant.

Heidi Hayes-Jacobs work in curriculum mapping was an important part of Bryant’s curriculum growth.

At Bryant I was offered some great opportunities; opportunities that only small districts afford a young administrator. I was given the responsibility of organizing the district’s federal programs desk-top audit, know in California as a Program Quality Review (PQR) of all the federal title programs appropriated by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It was a great training for a young administrator, providing me the chance to pull together all the documentation needed for the State’s auditor; giving me an inside track on what I would need when developing Title I targeted assistance school plans in Oregon.

But what I was most appreciative of was to be afforded the chance to organize and supervise the Merced County Migrant Summer School program for children in our region of Merced County. It was a great chance to work with teachers in grades K-8 on summer enrichment activities while at the same time planning the staff development in math that our teachers received. Although I had taught at the elementary level, this was my first experience training staff at this level, and we had a lot of fun while learning.

There are three things that Bryant brought out in my leadership skills:

  • Understanding from my time overseas that equity was the basis of building a strong campus climate. Without the student’s feeling their voice was heard, we were just making up rules to control their behavior.
  • I learned to organize my day like I had never had to in the past. In the classroom I always had control of the environment, as an assistant principal I needed to serve others, which meant my time was theirs.
  • An assistant principal’s job is less about getting to pick the things you like to do and more about serving others, my first taste of service leadership. I learned how to be a good follower, not always getting to pick my day’s work.

Bryant was a dynamic learning experience giving me contacts with families whose first language was not English, and whose stay in our community was sometimes fleeting. As assistant principal, it was also my first exposure to gang behavior and the challenges that brought to our community. I am thankful for the leadership of Dr. Walker and Ed Young, they mentored me; giving me the right amount of challenge through exposure to a variety of administrative areas that would prove helpful in my future school leadership positions.