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New principal has pre-existing love for Skyridge

Teachers, parent say experience, dedication good reasons to hire Lewandowski
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Returning to Skyridge Elementary School felt like a “natural fit” for Jenn Lewandowski. The Auburn resident worked as a part-time vice principal at the school three years ago when it was a K-8th grade campus, and now she is coming back as the school’s new principal. Lewandowski grew up in San Diego and started in education as an elementary school teacher, middle school teacher and middle school administrator in Pleasanton. She and her husband, Tony, moved to Auburn almost eight years ago. “We moved to Auburn for my husband’s career, and I worked at Weimar Hills School in Placer Hills Union School District,” Lewandowski said. Lewandowski worked as a vice principal at the school and a summer school principal. Michele Schuetz, superintendent of Auburn Union School District, said Lewandowski is scheduled to make an annual base salary of $83,000, an annual $7,540 in health benefits, an annual $600 car allowance and an annual $600 cell phone stipend. Lewandowski has three children, Kazik, 12, who is going into seventh grade at E.V. Cain, Kelby, 9, who is starting fourth grade at Skyridge, and Julian, 4, who will be attending Skyridge when he starts kindergarten. Lewandowski said she lives about 20 houses away from the school’s campus and definitely feels like it is her community, so she was excited to be hired for the position. “It’s just a natural fit, and it’s really what I trained to do for years,” she said. “I have worked in some really top performing districts. Obviously I have a vested interest here, and I want the school to do well. I love the commute. It’s a great staff and a great community. I think you can get more rewards when you have a vested interest.” Lewandowski said she would like to stay at Skyridge for a long time and hopes to retire there. Her goals as new principal are to help the teachers begin the school year successfully, have an understanding of what things have been implemented at the school since she has been gone and to help the students continue to learn and grow, Lewandowski said. “I definitely have a passion for utilizing technology in the classrooms,” she said. When not working with students Lewandowski said she has several hobbies. “I’m kind of an obsessed gardener,” she said. “I do a lot of yard work. I have chickens in Auburn. I take care of chickens, a dog and a cat in addition to three boys. I do yoga. I’m big into one of the yoga studios here Downtown. And I love to ski when I have the money and the time to do it. We are very outdoors. We go down to the river and spend a lot of time in our local parks.” Skyridge parent Chris Packard, who is also the co-president of the Skyridge Parent Teacher Club, was on the committee that interviewed candidates for the position before two were forwarded to the Auburn Union School District Board of Trustees. “At the time I was looking for someone who is in the community, who wants to be in the community and who is looking for a destination rather than a stepping stone,” Packard said. “And I felt that Jenn was that person at the time, and I still do feel that. I’m excited to begin working with her. I have two students who will be at Skyridge.” Noel Martin, who teaches fifth grade at Skyridge, said there were a couple reasons why she thought Lewandowski was a good choice. “I think first of all the fact that she had served part-time as a vice principal for Skyridge about three years ago, that gave her a good understanding of what Skyridge is about, and the families and the community and the culture of Skyridge,” Martin said. “And she is a parent in this community. Although that’s not a hard and fast rule for hiring someone, but I think it was an asset for what she had. I think primarily her administrative experience in the past was a huge factor.” Laurie McGonagill, who also teaches fifth grade at the school, said Lewandowski’s support of the staff during her previous time at the school was a deciding factor in moving Lewandowski forward in the hiring process. “We really appreciated her the year she was vice principal for us,” McGonagill said. “She was immediate with response to our needs and with students and situations that came up. She was just a quick study and really efficient, no nonsense but effective.” Lewandowski said she is looking forward to getting started. “It’s so surreal because it happened so quickly,” she said. “I have 100 things I need to do. I don’t feel it’s about me right now. I just want to get the teachers their supplies and start working.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com