New superintendent hits the ground running as school addition is built
ST. IGNATIUS — Students walking in the door at the schools here will be in for some big changes — and some still under construction. From a new superintendent with some fresh ideas of his own to newly constructed portions of the school that gives the St. Ignatius area a shiny new façade, things are looking up for School District No. 28 as the 2010-2011 school year begins.
“This school has done a good job of providing safety, support and belonging for children,” new superintendent Bob Lewandowski said. “We will start setting some academic expectations and we want students to achieve at a higher level.”
Lewandowski takes over for veteran Mission administrator Gerry Nolan, and it turns out they’re swapping places. Nolan heads to Wyoming where Lewandowski last held a school administrator position. In fact, one of the infamous Arizona prison escapees was recaptured in Meeteetse, Wyo., two blocks from the school where Lewandowski held a superintendent position for six years.
“Montana has salt of the Earth type people,” Lewandowski said. “Collegial, nice, friendly; the folks are just fantastic. It just worked out, everything fell into place and it was meant to be.”
He also believes in the staff he inherits.
“The people I’ve met, I’m impressed with their flexibility and willingness and want to provide for the kids,” Lewandowski said. “They’ve been very good to me and really embraced and welcomed me.”
Lewandowski, who has two daughters, Trinity and Stephanie, both of whom will enter the school district in grades 5 and 10, respectively, is hitting the ground running.
“I really believe the school I’m in should be the school my children are in,” he said. “I believe that’s an instrumental piece of the process.”
He’s thrown himself into everything, from church, community to all his responsibilities as superintendent since taking over on June 14. And there have been some big things he’s had to take on, beginning with a $2.8 million construction project that will overhaul major facets of the school and its surrounding grounds.
“The construction has been held hostage by the weather,” Lewandowski said. “They’re doing everything they can to prepare the new addition on the elementary. I don’t think it’s unusual to have unforeseen circumstances pop up.”
A construction review meeting held on Aug. 19 brought together architects, administrators, contractors, citizens and school board members to discuss remaining issues before the start of the school year. Additions to the elementary school include three classrooms, a new kitchen and a multi-purpose room. Administrative offices, a commons area and a computer lab are under construction at the high school, but delays have hampered the process and those at the meeting admitted the elementary project is behind schedule and most pieces will not be finished in time for the start of school. The high school is still on track to be finished in December. The project manager, Steve Miller, of Quality Construction, said the kitchen will be done Sept. 3, as will a majority of the elementary construction.
“I’m glad the third [of Sept.] is the date we’re shooting for,” Lewandowski said, noting that a contingency plan is in place to cover lunch until that time. “We can work with that.”
Other concerns included the playground, which remained unfinished last week but was guaranteed to be complete by Aug. 26.
“Just so everyone knows, the playground is just as important as this kitchen,” Lewandowski said.
He said the construction and new exterior will reflect what happens inside the building.
“[The students] are going to do exciting things here,” he said. “The new building sets the expectations and says we’re proud, we’re excited of where we are and where we are going and we’re excited to set that tone.”
Lewandowski will have plenty of time to settle himself more, but today, he’s got to open the school’s doors for some new smiling faces. And though he’s done a lot in two short months, he still feels he’s got something to prove.
“The model I always follow is that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care,” Lewandowski said.