“Dr. Gander’s work ethic is one of long hours and great dedication. He has very high academic expectations for students and teachers, and is always visible throughout the school. I witnessed low achieving teachers rise to the occasion under his leadership. He respects others, their opinion, and collaborated when making difficult decisions.”

— Kim O’Black-Morrison
Teacher/Parent, Jewell School

Jewell School

2009 – 2012  

Principal – Grades K-12
158 students

Jewell School District #8
83874 Highway 103
Seaside, OR 97138

What I accomplished in my Principal role at Jewell:

  • Leadership of the Pre-K-12 academic programs bringing College Board AP courses and introducing on-line learning opportunities to our school for the first time, development a multi-age classroom model and advancing music and library programs.
  • Leader of staff training that implemented Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design instructional planning model to facilitate the development of Oregon’s Common Core Standards in our multi-age classrooms and high school courses.
  • Established Professional Learning Communities as a key process for instructional improvement. Including a structured writing work sample and assessment process.
  • Maintained a High School graduation rate of 95% or above each of the three years as superintendent/principal.
  • Leader of training experiences for Differentiated Instruction methods.
  • Facilitated the implementation of a Talented and Gifted (TAG) program that met the Oregon’s requirements of identification, and individually planned services.
  • Re-established an agricultural education program in combination with two other districts that were looking to re-enter the Future Farmers of America competitive arena after budget cuts had reduced program opportunities in Clatsop County.

In my first two years as the Jewell principal we focused on curriculum adoptions and student formative and summative assessment protocols. We adopted a variety of new reading and math curricula as well as a new social sciences adoption, and including a high school and middle school science adoptions. Working closely with our Educational Service District we evaluate our formative assessment processes and developed a district wide initiative to improve our skills in differentiated instruction. With the ESD’s help Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) became our school improvement model.

In our K-8 classrooms we implemented the model of assessment that I developed at Pringle Elementary and linked it with the Oregon standards in language arts and mathematics to ensure our daily lessons focused on standards acquisition. In this model we looked at timelines related to summative state testing and integrated formative opportunities into our assessment calendar. This allowed our multiage classrooms to develop standards based assessments that students could access based on their skill level not their chronological age. With this approach we made extensive gains in student performance on both local and state measures.

We also held extensive training in instructional practice and linked those trainings opportunities to teacher evaluation plans, well before Oregon went to SB90 as part of the ESEA wavier. We had different evaluation protocols for teachers with differing time in the field. At Jewell we were able to individualize evaluation through a generous staff development budget in our contracts.

Our students’ success had its roots in our small size and our teachers’ efforts to adjust instruction and assessment practices when developing multi-aged learning programs with new curriculum adoptions. Small schools have to be creative and Jewell had the resources and the willingness to reflect on our practices. We were successful in moving to multi-age classrooms because of our commitment to putting student’s first, a willingness to look outside of our past practices as new resources and new class configurations made our changes necessary.

There are four things that Jewell brought out in my leadership skills:

  • Developing Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design framework really helped me visualize backward planning, or planning with the end in mind as some refer to this instructional approach.
  • Providing high quality non-core programs is key to giving teachers time to work in PLC’s and still getting their independent work completed.
  • Creating opportunities for all students K-12 in an isolated rural community required that I marshal resources and target specific staff development opportunities supporting differentiated instruction and diverse curriculum. Our AP and TAG programs flourished at Jewell under my leadership.
  • Teacher evaluation needed to give credit for what the teachers were working on in their classroom everyday. Authentic processes need to capitalize on current practices not contrived experiences.