SHERIDAN — Just short of two weeks on the new job, Sheridan High School Principal Brent Leibach is no rookie to education.
Formerly the principal at Highland Park Elementary School, Leibach took over the flagship of Sheridan County School District 2 on July 1 after 14-year leader Dirlene Wheeler retired.
Prior to his work at Highland Park, Leibach spent his first year in Sheridan as assistant principal at Sheridan Junior High School after moving to the district following 17 successful years in education in Sydney, Montana.
“My mother was a grade-school teacher and I remember growing up in schools,” he said. “I truly thought for many, many years that my home was the school because I remember spending so much time there with mom.”
That feeling of having a home away from home has stuck with Leibach through his years as an educator and is his goal for SHS students, staff and parents alike.
“It should feel like a safe place and a place where people want to be. When they walk in the doors, they feel at ease and they know we will do everything in our power to make them successful,” Leibach said of the school. “That is one of the things when I talk about what we’re looking at instituting, that’s what I want our school to become.”
“A place for everybody” is one of the few things Leibach has his eye on right out the gate but he was quick to add that he is not going to jump into any changes right now for a school that is already successful.
“I can tell you without question that this staff and this school are great. Dirlene left the school in great shape and I have no intentions on changing that,” he said. “Initially my role is going to be listening and watching and learning what I can do to bring us to the next level.”
He added that through watching the school he knows there are a lot of great things going, but no matter how great things are there is always something you can do to get to the next level.
“That’s our job, taking each kid and getting them to the next level and above,” he said. “So whatever we need to do better to make that happen, we need to do.”
Leibach has already spent a great deal of time training under Wheeler and learning the school, including where everything is.
As he walks through the hallways gazing up at the high ceilings of the entryway earlier this week, he admits he still gets a little lost in the building, though he is getting better after a few late nights of wandering wings alone.
“Dirlene has been super at helping us make this transition. She is one of those leaders that wants to see this school do well and she has done a wonderful job of helping me understand the ins and outs of the school,” he said. “Dirlene is done and I just know her and her husband are enjoying vacation, she surely deserves it, but let’s just say I have her cellphone on speed dial and she has made it clear that she is happy to help. Her heart and soul were poured into this school and she left a legacy for me to uphold.”
For now, Leibach is asking as many questions as he is answering and is eager to get to know his students, staff and parents, especially, as he feels parents are the often overlooked vital part to the equation.
“There are things when I look at them I see ways I would change it to make improvements to be honest with you but I want to take it one day at a time and I want to speak with parents first and then move forward,” he said. “They are a huge part of this puzzle. One of the things we always need to be aware of as school employees is every day we are working with children and parents play a significant role in that process so it’s a group that we want to engage throughout the process.”
Leibach is looking forward to meeting more parents during registration set for Aug. 13 and 14 at the school.