Bayfield principal to lose his position

High school chief to be offered teaching position instead

Bayfield High School Principal Michael Gearheart will be moved to a teaching position elsewhere in the district after the school board voted not to renew his contract earlier this month.

“The decision was made because we feel like it’s important we go in a different leadership direction at the high school level,” Bayfield Superintendent Troy Zabel said. A leadership change is the best way for the district to embrace major changes, including the state’s new educator-effectiveness laws and work on professional learning communities, Zabel said.

There was little discussion and no public comment about the decision at the board’s April 10 meeting, he said. The district has started searching for another high school principal.

The board’s decision was unanimous. Board member Don Mooney said he supported Zabel’s recommendation and trusted the superintendent knew which employees he needs to accomplish the goals of the district.

“We need certain things out of people to succeed,” Mooney said.

Gearheart is in his seventh year at Bayfield High School. He will be offered a teaching position because he is tenured in the district, but only as a teacher. His principal license, like most, is contractual on a year-to-year basis.

“I want to be clear that I think Michael is an outstanding person,” Zabel said. “We really want to honor the work he has done (at the high school).”

Gearheart’s strength is connecting to students, Zabel said.

Also this month, Durango High School Principal Diane Lashinsky resigned and Ignacio High School Principal Gary Witherspoon was put on paid administrative leave without a renewal of his contract next year.

The timing of the shake-ups shouldn’t be too surprising because such personnel changes usually happen in the spring, Zabel said.

“There is a lot of movement that happens in the spring,” he said. “It gets a little hairy.”

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