Tigard High says goodbye to Van Fleet

June 15, 2019

Van Fleet announces leave

Principal Andy Van Fleet will officially assume his position at Fowler on July 1, according to Supt. Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith.

Photo courtesy of TTSD

Principal Andy Van Fleet will officially assume his position at Fowler on July 1, according to Supt. Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith.

Van Fleet’s departure from Tigard was officially announced by Superintendent Dr. Sue-Rieke Smith on June 10. After four years at Tigard High, Principal Andy Van Fleet will officially assume the principal role of Fowler Middle School come July. He will be taking the place of former Fowler principal Daniel Busch.

“I have always loved the energy level of middle school,” Van Fleet said, noting that he enjoys engaging with kids at the same age level as his own children. “I find their sense of humor and their energy invigorating.” Despite his commitment to helping students succeed at Tigard High, Van Fleet says his actual dream is to be a middle school principal.

“The reality is that once this Fowler position fills, it might be five or ten years before another principal shift opens up,” Van Fleet said. “I absolutely love Tigard High so much, but having the opportunity to go to a middle school that directly feeds this high school just made all the sense in the world.” One of Van Fleet’s main goals as principal of Tigard High was to aid as many students as possible in getting them on track for graduation. Now, as principal of Fowler, he hopes to build that foundation for success earlier on in students.

“It’s good from a professional lens,” Van Fleet said. “I get to learn and support at another level.” He primarily wants to help prepare students for the transition from eighth grade to freshman year.

The news that Van Fleet was looking to land the new job came as a surprise to some of the administration at Tigard.

“I think he really liked it here,” receptionist Shari Balcom said. “But he wanted a job with less night-time commitments.” (Another reason Van Fleet took the position at Fowler is so he can spend more time with his family at home.) Still, everyone in the main office is excited to see Van Fleet pursuing his career goals.

“I’m happy for him,” Head Secretary Rachel Edwards said. “I really am.”

Van Fleet believes the new principal, whoever it may be, shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to the role given that the rest of the school will also be adjusting to a brand-new building. “[The new principal] will get to set our entire function up the way that they see fit, and that makes a lot of sense,” he said. The district is still actively looking for a replacement for Van Fleet. TTSD HR Director Debbie Ebert held a meeting at Tigard High during lunch earlier this week to gather student input on the hiring process. (See related story, “Q&A with Debbie Ebert”, for more info.)

“I’ll be excited to see who we get,” Edwards said. “The district has been quick to jump on that.” The new principal at Tigard could small or big changes to the school, depending on who fills Van Fleet’s shoes and what sort of ambitions they have for the school. The staff and student body will not only be returning to new classrooms next year, but new leadership as well.

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Q&A with Debbie Ebert

Debbie Ebert is the HR director for the Tigard-Tualatin School District. Earlier this week, she held a meeting during lunch at Tigard High for any curious students to inquire about the hiring process for the school’s new principal.


What qualities do you look for in a principal?

We are looking for someone that has experience[…] experience with leadership, and secondary experience. So we’ve heard from our staff here at Tigard High, very clearly, that experience is very important to them. [We’re looking for] somebody who knows what it’s like to be in a high school, so they’ve taught in a high school for a long time or been an administrator in a high school. And they’d be keen to know when they walk into a classroom what good instruction looks like. Somebody who will build relationships amongst everybody; students, staff, community, parents.


Through this construction project, how would you expect a new person would become familiar with the work going on?

Well, Principal Van Fleet has been very clear that he will work with[…] the two guys in our district that are in charge of the construction projects, to make sure that they transition the new principal into the work that’s already been done and what’s still left to do.


Does the district foresee any problems that would happen from integrating the new principal into this project?

No. We’ll give them tons of support[…] If it’s somebody that is already in the district that comes into this position, then they’ll have some background knowledge at least, but if we hire somebody from outside of the district, they’re gonna need a lot more support in terms of getting up to speed on what this requires.


Is there a preference in hiring someone from the district versus outside of the district?

Nope. We posted it both internal and external, which means that staff that work within our district are free to apply, and then we posted out on social media, and we have some other websites that we posted on.


To what extent is there a preference for gender and racial minorities in hiring this position?

That’s a strong vision in our district, to diversify our work force. That’s really important to us; that’s a top priority we look for when we’re hiring teachers and administrators and district office staff. That will be something we look at and screen for and we even go out to people that we know and ask, ‘Do you know anybody in the state and in education that’s interested in this position?’


What time is the district hoping to have the new principal hired?

The ultimate goal would be in the next couple weeks[…] The job posting closes next Friday, and then we would want to start interviewing candidates that we think are strong from their paperwork, and then[…] we’d narrow the group of candidates down. Then we would bring those candidates to a larger community interview where we would have students and parents and more staff, and then from there we would hope that we would find the person. But if we don’t, then we might have a third step in the process, or a fourth step in the process. You know, especially sometimes we get two people and it’s really hard to decide [between the two], so then you have to do another type of process between those two people.

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