When the first school bell rings in August for Gunnison Watershed RE1J School District’s fall semester, all three Gunnison-based schools will be under new leadership, as the principals for Gunnison Elementary School (GES) , Gunnison Middle School (GMS) and Gunnison High School (GHS) have decided to take on new roles.
However, GES’s Jim Woytek and GHS’s Andy Hanks are keeping it in the RE1J family, as Woytek moves onto GHS and Hanks to GMS. Middle school Principal Todd Witzel is leaving to accept a position in Grand Junction.
Earlier in the semester, high school Vice Principal Dave Uhrig also stepped down; Robin Wilkinson, GHS social studies instructor, will be replacing Uhrig.
When Witzel’s resignation was announced at the end of April, Hanks saw the position as an opportunity to try something different.
“I think I’m just excited for a change,” Hanks said. “It ended up being one of those things where the timing was perfect.”
Hanks has been at his post for 12 years, and was also the principal at the elementary for two years prior.
During his time at GHS, Hanks saw and played a role in expanding the school’s offerings to students — from activities and sports, to academics. One of his proudest memories, Hanks explained, was the addition of the Pathways Program in 2016. The program offers alternative graduation opportunities where students can pursue vocational programming, which Hanks said was one of his “missions” upon entering the position.
After more than a decade with the school, Hanks is most looking forward to creating a new community within the halls of GMS.
“I’m hoping first and foremost to take some time to learn and build relationships with the staff and students and parents,” Hanks said. “I’ll miss it all (at GHS) and I will always bleed red and black and always be a Cowboy, but I’m excited to jump into middle school and be a Mustang.”
Moving into his new high school role, Hanks said he has no advice for Woytek; but only because he knows, “Jim will do great.”
As a former GHS student, Woytek is certainly familiar with the effect the school’s culture can bring to a young person, which he hopes to continue in his tenure.
“Mr. Hanks and the GHS staff have built a positive school culture with excellent academics and strong community connections,” Woytek told the Times in an email. “I hope to bring a sense of continuity to GHS in that we'll certainly commit to continuing the long tradition of excellence. … Gunnison High played a significant role in my formation as a young man and I'm grateful to have this opportunity to serve in a leadership position 20 years after graduating from GHS.”
Woytek served in his position as principal of GES for six years and previously taught higher education for three years as an assistant professor of education at Western Colorado University.
Similar to Hanks, Woytek saw the job opening as a new experience to “serve the district in a different capacity.”
Promoting literacy at GES and Lake School is one of Woytek’s proudest achievements, particularly in relation to schools’ participation in the Colorado READ Act and the Colorado Early Literacy Grant.
Woytek, however, credits his team of educators at both schools for the group effort that created their successes.
“The staff at Lake and GES are second to none and I think our work together has changed the lives of many children in this Valley,” he said.
The next person to lead the GES community is yet to be found, as Woytek’s former position is currently open.
(Roberta Marquette can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)