by Marissa Lorenz
On Tuesday, February 22, during a Special Meeting of the West Grand School District (WGSD) Board of Education, High School Principal and Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Bauer was recommended and named as the only finalist in the District’s year-long search for a permanent superintendent.
An offer and contract for employment was extended at the regular March 9 meeting of the Board. The contract was approved, and Bauer will begin her permanent position as of July 1. The District will begin its search for a new high school principal immediately, posting for it and any other openings for the coming school year.
Former Superintendent Darrin Peppard was placed on an unexplained “district suspension” in March of 2021. On March 30 of that year, he was moved out of suspension, but never returned to work in the District buildings. The District negotiated an early end to Peppard’s contract in May, 2021, which terminated the relationship as of June 30 of the same year.
The School Board posted the position through the Colorado Department of Education and on numerous relevant job boards. In July, three finalists were brought to Kremmling for several rounds of interviews, including an open community Q&A. At the end of that process, however, board members declined to hire any of the candidates.
Rather, the Board voted unanimously to appoint High School Principal Bauer to the interim position.
Bauer has been a West Grand staple for over a decade, since she joined the District as a middle school teacher in 2011, teaching sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grades. She has coached high school volleyball, middle school and high school basketball, and has recently added peewee basketball to her résumé.
In that time, Bauer and her husband, Jake, a doctor of physical therapy at Middle Park Health, have become parents to four sons, all of whom are now West Grand Students — currently representing the Bauers in third-grade, first-grade, and pre-Kindergarten.
Bauer moved into administration as the K-8 assistant principal for the 2016-17 school year and has served as high school principal since 2017.
At the time of the interim appointment — and well into the second year of the COVID-19-induced educational tumult — Bauer indicated that she had not been looking for the role of superintendent. She explained that she had agreed to take on the joint responsibility in order to “offer the time needed to find the right person for the district.”
The most recent step in finding the “right person” was taken recently when the School Board posted the position internally to West Grand School District.
And nearly three-quarters through a year in which she has done her best to meet the expectations and obligations of both principal for the high school and superintendent for the district, Bauer says that she has decided to continue in the direction of district leadership.
“It has been a year of challenges, trying to act as high school principal and superintendent at the same time,” Bauer describes. “In both roles, I really want to do a good job for everyone; they deserve it. And while there has been incredible support from the amazing staff and parents and lots of understanding, I would have liked to do more for both positions.
“This year has offered me an immense learning opportunity,” she continues, “and I’m very grateful for it. It has really shown me how your perspective changes, when moving from principal to superintendent, when your focus moves from the four walls of a classroom to the four walls of a building, or from the four walls of one school building to the ‘four walls’ of a school district.
“It was a very hard decision to pursue the superintendent journey rather than that of the principal. But it was really hard to move out of the classroom also. I was anxious that it would take me further from what I most love — the students. But in a small rural district, the superintendent sees students all the time; I’m here with them every day.
“I really want to do the best job for the school and the community. As superintendent, I can influence decisions that can have a greater impact on students, in a different way than as a teacher or principal,” summarizes Bauer. “I look forward to having that different impact, while still being engaged with West Grand students.”
School Board members, parents of West Grand students, and staff are expressing satisfaction at the choice.
“In any hiring process, there are tangibles that you just can’t buy,” stated Board of Education Chair Mitch Lockhart. “I think it’s important to look within an organization first, looking for employees who are already vested in the entity, in this case, our school district and community.
“[Bauer] is well-respected in the district and has a deep, vested interest in our district and its well-being. More than that, she is intricately intertwined with the community. And while she is fully qualified in every other way, this is the standout for me. She loves West Grand, and she loves Kremmling.”
“I am so grateful to work with Elizabeth Bauer every day,” noted Martha Schake, District Director of Finance and Human Resources. “I am amazed by how she manages to accomplish everything at West Grand School District, especially considering the way her workload has grown over the last year.
“She is incredibly dedicated to West Grand. She supports and empowers our staff and students. Her leadership and vision for West Grand School District is incomparable. We are fortunate to have Mrs. Bauer onboard.”
And Bauer is already looking forward to accomplishing ever more, once she is able to more adequately focus on the responsibilities of just one (already huge) role.
One important goal is to “streamline communication, both within the district and with the community, being clear and consistent about our objectives and methods… and really communicating all the great work we are doing! I’m not sure that’s always communicated to the greater community. I want to grow our partnership with the community. I want us to be really clear about what we’re doing and where we’re headed together.”
Supporting staff and building district capacity is another important goal. “Staffing is obviously a major challenge everywhere,” recognizes Bauer. “But in a small town, it really hits businesses and other places of employment, including schools. We’re focused on filling all our positions with great staff and doing the best to support our staff in the best way possible.”
Bauer points to the recent mill levy override approved by voters last fall as one way in which the district is trying to address staffing. But she adds, “Money is nice, but it’s not the reason people leave or stay in a place. We are working on building an atmosphere and community where everyone knows they can thrive.”
All of which underlines Bauer’s main target — ”setting the stage for students and staff to become the greatest they can be, whatever that means.”
Bauer recognizes more work to be done to meet those goals but observes, “[The District and Community has] already been through so much together over the last couple of years. I appreciate that people are willing to have the hard conversations and still come together for a shared purpose and goal.
“I want the community to feel like they are part of the school and that they belong here,” Bauer concludes. “There is still work to be done, and it will take all of us. I hope the community is willing to join us in that journey.”
After a circuitous journey, the Kremmling community is pleased to welcome Elizabeth Bauer as its next Superintendent of West Grand Schools.