Although he has only been principal at St. Croix Central Elementary since 2014, Pete Nusbaum has created a strong bond with both the students and staff he interacted with every day for the past three school years. However, with the approval of the school board at its Jan. 26 regular meeting, Nusbaum will be taking over residence of the St. Croix Central Middle School as the replacement for current middle school principal Scott Woodington this July.
"(Superintendent Tim) Widiker approached me about the possibility in early December. I wasn't very fond of the idea at first because I enjoy my job at the elementary so much," Nusbaum said. "However, when I started a pros and cons list it made more sense for me to move to the middle school."
According to Widiker, Nusbaum has a unique set of skills and a wide range of experience that makes him perfect for being a principal at any level, especially at the middle school.
"He has personally experienced the developmental levels of every age of students," Widiker said. "He knows what a kindergarten student needs and what a graduating senior needs, as well as the needs of the staff who support those students. Knowing the entire spectrum of developmental needs is extremely valuable."
Nusbaum has experience as a middle school principal from his time at Ellsworth Middle School before taking the SCC Elementary principal job in 2014. He also taught at SCC High School for 17 years, while also coaching football, wrestling and girls basketball.
"My decision was based on what is best for the kids there. The middle school is already doing a great job exceeding expectations so my thought process and that is a bonus so I did focus my decision on the kids at the middle school," Nusbaum said. "A new principal will have to learn all of the students. I will have had experience with three of the grade levels in the building and I will be going over to the middle school with the largest class in SCC History. We have almost 150 students in fourth grade and I feel that I can be a great resource to the 5th grade staff in getting to know these students."
Since he has been a principal at a middle school before and knows many of the students who will be at the middle school next school year, Nusbaum isn't expecting too many surprises in the transition to his new office in Hammond.
"I won't get as many cupcakes and hugs!" Nusbaum said. "Their age is the main difference. All kids are great kids but they all have different needs. The needs of a middle school student is much different than an elementary student. Middle school students are going through so many physical and emotional changes and it is important that we help them through it and at the same time move them academically."
Even though he has only been at the principal at the elementary school for two and half school years, Nusbaum has already built strong relationships with his students and staff, which is one of the main things he will miss when he moves up to the middle school in July.
"My feelings are very mixed about leaving behind the elementary school," Nusbaum said. "The staff here is so passionate about what they do and they are by far the hardest working staff I have ever worked with. We have grown so much together in my time here. I have learned so much from them and I am a much better person and leader because of them. The good thing is that I am walking into the same situation at the middle school."
As much as Nusbaum will miss the elementary school, Widiker knows that elementary students and staff will miss him even more, especially the little things he does to make their day easier and better.
"They will miss the Pete that paints the hallways on weekends, and develops every message for the school sign. They will miss the Pete who sends out the Monday Mix and Friday Focus, and is consistently in the hallways, lunch room and bus loading zone greeting and teasing students," Widiker said. "The staff will miss the honest conversations that he has with them on a one-to-one basis....Parents will miss the Pete who greets them in the drop-off loop and lends a hand whenever needed. Everyone will miss the Pete who loves kids and has consistently put students first."
Although he expects the transition from the elementary school to the middle school to be a relatively smooth one, Nusbaum said he will have a tough time leaving behind the elementary students he has gotten to know in his three years at the school in Roberts.
"The kids fill me so full of joy everyday and they make coming to work very easy! It is going to be tough leaving this building," Nusbaum said. "As a staff we have worked so hard on developing a climate that kids and staff like working in. I get a great feeling walking around this building. I am also going to miss the incredibly supportive parents. I couldn't ask for more support than we get every day."
The only thing Nusbaum plans to bring with him to the middle school at the start of next school year is his hard work ethic and his belief that kids need to come first. Nusbaum realizes that, while he has been principal at a middle school before, every middle school is different. Because of that, he plans to take some time observe how things are done at his new school and rely on the staff around him to help develop any idea that would fit with the middle school.
"The hardest part of any transition is getting to know the staff and earning their trust as we move forward," Nusbaum said. "No one likes getting a new leader and teachers are not any different. It is important that I meet with all staff members and have honest conversations regarding their experiences and concerns they have with a new leader and what goes on in the building."
Elementary principal search
According to Widiker, the elementary principal position has been posted internally and he has met with staff at the elementary school to get their input regarding what they would like to see in their next principal.
"That feedback is incredibly valuable. The staff has overwhelmingly responded that they would like assistant principal Shelly Clay to be their next principal and I agree that she is certainly a strong candidate to fill that role. I need to add that Shelly's leadership the last two years at the elementary was also extremely influential. Those two complimented each other very well," Widiker said.
"I plan to make a recommendation to the school board in the very near future. Filling that role as soon as possible is important in the transition process. We are certainly looking for a long-term person in that role considering the turnover in the Elementary Principal position the last five years."