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New schools chief lays out plans to engineer success

WGS Principal Tom Rogozinski to take helm in July

Tom Rogozinski (Cindy Yingst)
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, March 7, 2019

Tom Rogozinski figures he’ll do a lot more listening than talking in the next six months.

Rogozinski, 51, will replace Mark Jeffery as superintendent of the Warrenton-Hammond School District when Jeffery retires at the end of the school year.

“It’s a pretty good time to be taking this position,” Rogozinski said. “We’re going to have some very visible, very tangible wins right away.”

The new career and technical building is expected to open by the next school year. Construction will begin soon on the new middle-school campus south of Walmart.

The district is in a great place with teachers, classified employees and administrators who want children to succeed, he said.

“The board asked me, ‘how do you make decisions?’ and it’s simple. Is it in the best interest of the kids?” he said.

Rogozinski, who has been principal at Warrenton Grade School since 2013, was selected from a field of eight applicants and approved for the superintendent’s post by a unanimous vote of the school board Feb. 24.

“For me, it was just his philosophy about educating children” board President Debbie Morrow said. “His motto is ‘engineering success.’ He’s always asking, ‘How do we engineer success’ at every meeting. That’s the job of an educator.”

Board members Dan Jackson and Dalan Moss said Rogozinski was clearly the best candidate.

“He shares the same goals as the board and he’s all in,” board member Darlene Warren said. “We know what he can do, what he’s capable of.”

Added board member Greg Morrill: “I’m just really happy that we have somebody already in the district who’s qualified, capable and on board with what’s happening in the district.”

Unlike Jeffery, who was being paid as a part-time superintendent, Rogozinski was hired to fill a full-time post with a salary in the range of $115,000 to $130,000. Details of his contract will be approved at a future school board meeting.

The Columbia Press talked with Rogozinski about his plans at the district’s helm.

** What is working well already?

Putting relationships first with kids is working well and it would be unwise to change it. The stresses that teachers … (and other staff) have is they have to worry about whether the standards have been met, did they cover the curriculum. It’s increasingly important we equip our teachers and staff to form those positive relationships with kids. They almost have to plan for some of that during the day. Having those good relationships drives better academic outcomes.

** What would you like to change?

We have some initiatives I’d like to continue to grow. Certainly, the work Mr. Heyen (the principal) and Mr. Jannusch (vice principal in charge of science, technology, engineering and math) are doing at the high school with the CTE program for next fall, we’ve already had some discussions about the educational program for that.

I want to expand project-based learning, how students interact with the material. Examples are themes such as Lewis and Clark, oceans, community gardens and the use of the theme to connect across every subject with lots of variety. Find the thing that resonates with kids and put that in play.

** What’s the first thing you’ll do when you step in?

I’ll have the advantage of working closely with Mr. Jeffery as we work through the construction process for the new school. That’s going to be a priority right from the start. It’s very technical and very foreign. Most administrators don’t necessarily have access to walking through the bond process.

The second thing is concurrent: working to get a better understanding of our high school and developing a good working relationship with Mr. (Rod) Heyen with the idea of being one who could work with Rod to get solutions in play.

** What could Warrenton schools do better?

We’re increasingly faced with trying to educate students who have challenges beyond school and it impacts them in school. It’s a trend nationwide. Any of society’s deficiencies will play out in the school. … Building a culture of care around our students. It is our mission statement so the kids that really struggle are being helped through that.

Ultimately, the high school graduation rate … will continue to be an area we want to get better. I’m not sure it’s ever going to be 100 percent, but to that extent, we have to keep looking for ways to engineer success.

** What are the district’s current strengths?

Our leadership team. Mrs. (Robbie) Porter has been my assistant principal for all of my six years. We have been tremendously successful in co-piloting a change in the culture at the campus and with Mr. (Sean) O’Malley joining us last year – he was the best of 27 applicants so that tells you the caliber we got when we hired him. Mr. (Ian) O’Brien, Mr. (Josh) Jannusch, they’re all highly motivated, driven educators on our leadership team.

** What are you most looking forward to?

That three-year plan. I’m excited to have that building up on the hill (ready) for students by Fall 2021 at the earliest.

I want to build programs, push bigger leverage points to have a bigger effect. Things that are really worthy to do -- working with the system and the culture we already have in place – you morph it, meld it and you continue to grow it.

I want to look back in a few years and say, ‘Wow, we’re really doing something special here.’

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