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On Wednesday, Feb. 12, Christy Straatman was appointed principal at NS, after the promotion of Nan Ault to superintendent left NS with a central position to fill.
Straatman, who started her career at NSSD, is currently serving as the principal of Hunter High School.
“The opportunity to apply,” Straatman said, “wasn’t something I was
planning on this year, but when it came, I did not hesitate in putting in for it. If I had the opportunity to do what I’m most passionate about, in a community that is still incredibly important to me, that I absolutely love, and be near my kids and my grandkids.”
Straatman has many ties to the community with two of her kids and other
family members still living in the area. Though she grew up in West Valley, her connection to the NS community began early in her life.
“My grandpa ended up with the family farm in Milburn,” said Straatman, “so as
a kid we would always spend a lot of time there. My son Rhett was about four when we decided to move down to Sanpete county.”
While Straatman’s ties to the community will help her make the transition as principal of NS, her experience at a big school has given her a different perspective that can help her as she steps into this new and challenging role.
“[NS is] a much different school than I’m at now,” said Straatman. “[Hunter has] about
2,600 kids, and it is a majority minority school. There is a strong diversity, and it’s exciting the things that take place here, but just as exciting are the things that happen down there.”
Those major differences have helped Straatman see things in a different light. Ultimately, though, she is excited to be back at NS, in part because of the connections and the unique environment the school offers.
“When you are in a small community you get to know that community,” Straatman said. “I love that involvement. North Sanpete is special, and I am excited to be back there.”
Outgoing principal and future superintendent Nan Ault is excited for what Straatman can bring to NS and how she will work with the current staff.
“I think she is a well-experienced administrator,” said Ault. “This is a great staff
and they will have to figure out how they work together and I have no doubt they will.”
While Straatman brings great leadership and experience to NS, the process of selecting Straatman wasn’t without controversy, and it involved taking steps that have been unusual for NSSD.
The invitation to apply for the principal position was first made available to those inside the school district and was later opened to those outside of the district.
The step of opening an administrative position to those from outside the district is something that the selection committee, made up of board members, administration, teachers, and parents didn’t take lightly, especially considering that the district has a policy encouraging them to hire candidates from within the district.
Policy number III-13, “Selection, Hiring, and Appointment of Educational Administrators” states that “it is the policy of this Board that whenever possible qualified teachers be given the opportunity to fill administrator vacancies. When this is not possible, qualified individuals will be sought from outside the district.”
Though those involved in making that decision declined to comment due to the sensitive nature, they ultimately determined that of the several current employees who were interviewed, despite having the certifications for the position, none were considered to be qualified.
Two of the initial applicants in the district were invited back for a second round of interviews that also included applicants from outside the district, and Straatman was selected from all the candidates.
“I think our district is very interested and rightfully so, in honoring the people who have worked really hard to promote to be part of an administrative position,” said Nan Ault. “I think that is the reason the policy is stated as it is, but it also opens the door and allows us to explore other options. There are other very qualified people outside of the district that could come in here and contribute and add new views, insights and contribute greatly to who we are. I think you have to be open minded and certainly professional in the situation we are in and be supportive of everyone involved.”
Selecting the new principal was a difficult and emotional process for the hiring committee, and it has been emotional for all involved. The change for Ault, who has been at NS for over 20 years, eight as principal, has also been challenging to accept.
“It’s incredibly stressful,” said Ault. “I care deeply about my staff and the
people that I have worked with in this administrative office. I have been here for a long time so it affects me personally and professionally. I am very excited for Cristy and will support her wholeheartedly and continue to support the staff here at the high school, but I have been here a long time this is all I know, so to shut that door is really hard for me.”
Being in the position for such a long time causes an attachment and love for
most aspects of the job, but what will be most missed by Ault is the people at NS.
“I will miss all of the people here,” said Ault. “I will miss all of my kids. I think of
them as my kids and I will miss the people that I work with; they are part of who I am.”
While there is going to be a lot missed about being principal for Ault, there are
many things to look forward to in her new position.
“I’m excited to try something new.” said Nan Ault. “I don’t know that I really
expected to do that, but I feel honored and extremely humbled. I like to learn and I like a new adventure so this is going to be interesting.”
Ault is not alone in her excitement for change and the opportunity to try
something new. Straatman is also enthusiastic about her new role in her former school.
“I’m excited with the size of our student body to be involved,” said Straatman.
“I know that the administrators you have currently are involved, and you are going to see that same thing from me. I’m going to be so committed to what I do. I’m just all in and so dedicated.”