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ACGC educators wear more than just one hat

Sherri Broderius, left, and Dave Oehrlien look over calendars as they coordinate schedules. As part of a new administrative restructuring plan this year at ACGC, Broderius and Oehrlien find themselves working in various capacities, as well as at school's in neighboring towns. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

It's amazing Sherri Broderius and Dave Oehrlien don't collide with each other.

It would be quite understandable if the two Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District administrators would slam into each as they rounded the corner going from one office, one crisis, or one school to another.

Between them, Broderius and Oehrlien cover nearly every administrative role in three separate school buildings in three towns separated by miles of farm fields.

"It sounds so overwhelming, but it isn't," said Oehrlien.

This spring the ACGC School Board agreed to trim its administrative team from three individuals to two, after the second interim superintendent in as many years resigned.

Although board members were concerned the multiple duties would overtax the two, the board agreed in March to make Broderius the part-time superintendent. She's also principal for the grade 9 through 12 students that are housed at the school in Grove City and the K-4 principal at the elementary school 15 miles away in Cosmos. She also has title to a number of other jobs, like 504 coordinator and human rights officer.

Oehrlien is the grade 5 through 8 principal at the school in Grove City and the K-4 principal at the elementary school 5 miles down the road in Atwater. He's also the Title I coordinator, child study coordinator and curriculum coordinator.

If their own job descriptions weren't enough, the two often trade off and fill in for each other when one is busy with other duties.

Whoever can "deal with it first" handles the situation, said Oehrlien.

"There's a lot of crossover with the principal jobs," said Broderius. "Those lines blur all the time."

Broderius credits Oehrlien's willingness to be flexible as one reason for the success of the arrangement.

Open communication between the two is another reason why it works, said Oehrlien.

Humor doesn't hurt either.

Broderius said the "strength of our office staff" and the willingness of community recreation coordinator Marj Maurer to take on more duties have made it possible for her and Oehrlien to handle their administrative jobs.

The district also has a "lead teacher" in each of the elementary buildings who can step in when necessary if Broderius and Oehrlien aren't there.

While both are veteran principals at ACGC, Broderius is learning on the job how to be superintendent.

About a month ago Broderius would have said she felt like she was juggling a feather, a bowling ball and a badminton racket at one time. One day she was "quadrupled" and scheduled herself to be in four places at the same time.

Oehrlien regularly checks Broderius' schedule to find out where she needs to be and arranges his schedule accordingly.

The primary goal each day is to make sure the needs of the students and teachers are taken care of, said Broderius, who feels she can see the "whole scope of the district" because she has daily contact with every grade.

So far, there have been no complaints from students, staff or the community.

"I think it's going OK," said ACGC Board Chairwoman Judy Raske. "I think it's a lot of work and I think they're doing a good job."

The proposal was presented at a time when the school was trimming budgets to get out of statutory operating debt. It's estimated the plan has saved the financially strapped district at least $85,000.

Raske said streamlining the district and "utilizing good people" were primary goals for the restructuring and cutting costs was secondary. "It never hurts to save money and do a good job," she said.

Broderius and Oehrlien said they believe the arrangement can be a long-term solution for the district and they feel up to the task.

Raske said there may be some tweaking that will be necessary, but said she also believes it could continue as a long-range plan for the district.

"It's a lot of responsibility and a lot of demands of the job," said Raske. "They are really taking on something that we don't know if anybody else has tried in the same way."

Broderius said it may be the only way that small, rural school districts can make it.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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