SHERIDAN — After an academic year filled with uncertainty, Sagebrush Elementary School Principal Michael Wood will be leaving Sheridan this summer to assume the role of principal at Glenn Livingston Elementary School in Cody.
Though Wood is leaving voluntarily to pursue an opportunity he says he did not seek but rather was approached about over spring break, a series of events around Christmas of last year may leave members of the community wondering if there is more to the story.
Last December, a Facebook-based community support campaign was launched by Parent Teacher Organization contributor Amy Katschke.
Wood had informed her that Sheridan County School District 2 decided his contract for next school year would not be renewed.
“I started hearing talk among the parents that Mr. Wood would not be returning and because I had been very involved in the PTO and was concerned, I did not want to believe the hearsay so I asked him directly and he told me the rumors were true,” Katschke said.
The Press asked Wood this morning to confirm that the district had informed him his contract wouldn’t be renewed. In response, Wood looked to SCSD2 Director of Elementary Education Scott Stults who sat in on the interview, for help. After being met with just a headshake, Wood said, “We’re going to decline to comment.”
The Facebook campaign sparked uproar among the community from parents and nonparents alike. A digital petition circulated asking that the school board reinstate Wood. News of an upcoming PTO meeting in which board members would be present also spread and supporters of Wood planned to attend.
According to Katschke, the school board reversed their decision and renewed the contract prior to the meeting, but a group of more than 30 people still attended the meeting to show Wood support and show the board that they were not happy with what happened.
Wood confirmed that his contract had been renewed prior to the January meeting and noted they were also there to support all of the teachers and staff during the time in which all contracts are considered.
“Every year we have great discussion about our personnel and I expect to receive feedback, positive and negative. And this year we did go through some ugliness but it was OK and that is not why I am leaving,” Wood said.
In the end, though, Wood said he made the decision to move after what he described as a period of family reflection and heavy prayer.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be a member of a great team of educators,” Wood said. “It’s going to be hard to leave the Sagebrush family but if you put it to prayer and you feel good about it, change is always good.”
After 12 years as the head of Sagebrush, Wood’s accomplishments and contributions are great and include helping the school, a title school with at-risk students, achieve Blue Ribbon status.
He said he is grateful to continue learning and growing as an educator in another accomplished, Blue Ribbon school.
“Everybody in the building is a teacher, whether you’re a custodian, a cook or a para professional, you’re a teacher,” Wood said. “And I don’t think everyone understands what goes in to that. If you’re not getting up at 4 a.m. and worrying about kids you’re probably not in it for the right reasons and that is what I have been doing for more than 20 years. And that is what the folks out in Cody are doing as well.”
Wood will take a couple of weeks after the children leave in June to wrap up his duties. The search for someone to fill his position has already begun, though Stults said, Wood can never truly be replaced.