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ACGC restores principal position eliminated in 2009 amid budget cuts

COSMOS — After six years of working with a bare-bones administrative team in order to reduce expenses, the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District will restore a principal position.

The district has already received 28 applications for the job ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

The goal is to have a fifth- through eighth-grade principal hired and on duty by July 1, said Superintendent Sherri Broderius.

“It’s time,” said Broderius, of the board’s decision last month to change the makeup of the district’s administration.

It was 2009 when the board agreed to have just two key administrators serve multiple roles as superintendent and principal for all K-12 grades. The decision at that time was part of the overall effort to put the district back on solid financial footing.

Broderius has served as the district’s superintendent, the high school principal and elementary principal in Cosmos — which has since closed with all K-4 grade students now in Atwater.

Kodi Goracke currently serves as elementary principal as well as the fifth- through eighth-grade principal in Grove City.

They both carry additional duties and titles to round out the needs and requirements.

The schedule was grueling at times but was effective in helping the district chip away at its operating debt.

“There is no question that when ACGC went to the lean admin team in 2009, cost savings was the primary driver, along with many other items that cumulatively produced savings to balance the budget while maintaining our education foundation,” said ACGC School Board Chairman Joel Gratz.

“ACGC was, and still is, fortunate to have personnel in place with talents and expertise that allowed the structure to work effectively and efficiently,” said Gratz.

Broderius credits support from the entire district.

“Without a strong support team, you can only do so much,” she said.

On top of the financial stress that dogged the district, ACGC was put on notice a couple years ago that its elementary students were not performing well on tests, which required the district to beef up its academic efforts.

It all paid off, said Broderius.

The district now has a healthy fund balance and elementary test grades soared from the bottom to the top this year, earning the district statewide distinction for its academic gains that has put it in the running for a national award that will be announced this fall.

Those factors, along with new state requirements for teacher growth plans that require additional evaluations, new Department of Education requirements for college and career counseling for high school students and a commitment to keep improving student academics in all grades, the decision was made to hire another principal, said Broderius.

Broderius said working with teachers “is at the heart of what principals do.” Having another principal will allow time for the required staff training and evaluations that will ultimately affect how students are taught in the classroom.

As one of a handful of leadership districts — along with the Willmar School District — that has been selected to provide all-day/half-day class for 4-year-olds, Goracke will have another new program to oversee.

“The additional requirements literally demanded more time than the existing team had available hours for,” said Gratz. “ACGC wanted to continue raising the education bar for our students and felt this addition would do that.”

The cost of another principal will be offset by the elimination of a building and operations manager at the elementary school that had been required when the school failed to meet state testing standards. Because scores have drastically increased, that position is no longer mandated by the state.

Carolyn Lange

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

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