As longtime friends and coworkers at Bigfork High School, Matt Jensen and Matt Porrovecchio have shared a lot of things over the years: advice, responsibilities and of course, laughs.
When he cleans out his desk at the high school this summer in preparation of taking on his new role as elementary and middle school principal next fall, Jensen will leave Porrovecchio with one final parting gift: the key to his office.
Porrovecchio, who has spent the last several years as the high school librarian and activities director, will take over for Jensen as principal of the high school next year.
Jensen will fill the position left by current elementary and middle school principal Jackie Boshka, who will take on the newly created director of curriculum position for the 2011-2012 school year. The added position comes at no additional cost to the district, as the dean of students position was eliminated following Cory Pierce’s announcement that he has taken a job as the principal of West Glacier Elementary School. (See next week’s Eagle for more on Pierce.)
“Every ending is hard,” Jensen said of his move away from the high school. “It’s hard to be torn away before your visions are completed.”
Luckily for Jensen, Porrovecchio has every intention of seeing those visions through to fruition.
“It would be an understatement to say that we speak the same language,” Jensen said. “The message isn’t going to change. Our approach is different, but our end goals are the same.”
Knowing the future of Bigfork High School will be put in the hands of a capable leader has helped put Jensen’s mind at ease as he readies himself for the impending transition.
“There’s not another professional I hold in higher regard than Matt (Porrovecchio),” Jensen said.
Jensen, who began his career as a history teacher at Bigfork High School, said he is excited about the opportunity to work with younger students.
“It’s the next level for me professionally,” he said. “In high school, you only have the kids for four years, so the focus is different. You have a truncated timeline for the things you can do.”
In a kindergarten through eighth grade setting, on the other hand, Jensen said, “You can have such a direct impact and a longer period of influence.”
For his part, Porrovecchio is also looking forward to the prospect of impacting a greater number of students.
“I’m excited for the opportunity and humbled by the responsibility entrusted to me,” he said.
Like Jensen, Porrovecchio is comforted by the fact that his friend will be just a parking lot away during the next school year.
“I look forward to being able to work with Matt in the other building,” Porrovecchio said. “Having an impact at the district level with the two of us combined is a really exciting prospect.”
When Bigfork students return to school in the fall, they will find lots of familiar faces in unfamiliar places.
In addition to the principal switch, several teachers will be changing classrooms and job titles.
As Porrovecchio transitions into his new role as high school principal, current elementary and middle school librarian Scarlett Sherman will take on the high school librarian position.
Current middle school social studies teacher Gloria Carter will take Sherman’s job in the elementary and middle school library.
Carter’s teaching position will be filled by current high school history teacher Cynthia Wilondek.
High school basic English teacher Clara Clark will fill the position left by Wilondek.
Middle school math teacher Jessica Johnson will teach high school math next fall, and high school English teacher Mary Sullivan — who taught some sections of middle school English this year — will move to the middle school full-time next year.
In addition to his current sections of high school science, Hans Bodenhamer will teach a GIS elective class at the middle school next year.
Finally, longtime elementary and middle school gym teacher Sue Loeffler will teach health and P.E. at the high school next year, while current high school P.E. instructor Jim Epperly will take on Loeffler’s old position.
Although some of the job swapping was budget-related, superintendent Cynthia Clary said the financial gains were “secondary” to educational benefits.
According Clary, the reshuffling of job titles within the district has given many staff members the opportunity to take on “their dream job.”
Clark, for example, originally applied for a job teaching history at Bigfork High School 13 years ago, but was instead placed in an English teaching position.
“This is what I’ve wanted to do for forever,” Clark said. “I’m really excited about it.”
Although she is looking forward to the change, Clark said she is a little sad about leaving behind her job as the high school basic English teacher.
“In some ways, it’s really bittersweet,” Clark said. “I loved teaching English.”
Clark plans to incorporate her passion for reading into her lesson plans for next year.
She has already begun picking out novels that go along with the curriculum for different historical periods.
“Kids don’t read enough, and for me that’s really important,” Clark said. “This will give them more of a hands-on, heartfelt idea of what really happened.”
For Clary, reawakening the teaching passion of so many longtime staff members makes all the work that has gone into the rearrangements worth it.
“If we can give one of our staff members the job they really want, we’re going to do everything we can to try to make that possible,” Clary said.