Grand Island Public Schools
123 South Webb Road
Grand Island, NE 68802
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New Principal Announcements at GIPS


We are pleased to share the news of new Principal transitions within Grand Island Public Schools! 


Mrs. Fawn Gernstein will now be stepping into the role of Principal of the Academy of Freshman Exploration at Grand Island Senior High.  


Mrs. Gernstein has been with the district for 17 years and brought a consistent measure of leadership, student advocacy, and community engagement throughout her tenure.  Previously, she served as Principal for the Academy of Business & Communications for four years.  Prior to that she served as a GISH English Teacher, 6-12 Instructional Coach, and a 9-12 Literacy Coach. 


Excited about the new leadership opportunity, Mrs. Gernstein shared, “I am excited for this opportunity and will continue to build and sustain our Academy of Freshman Exploration.  It is the foundation for our Academies of Grand Island Senior High and I am honored to serve both staff and future Islanders of this academy!” 


With Dr. Mintken, current Freshman Academy Principal, set to lead West Lawn Elementary as their new Principal at the end of this school year — Gernstein is set to helm the role this summer. 


Continuing with the exciting transitions will be Mr. Nathan Helzer now poised to serve as Principal of the Academy of Business & Communications at Grand Island Senior High.  Mr. Helzer has been with the district for seven years serving as a Music Teacher for Barr Middle School.  Prior to joining GIPS, he served as a Music Teacher at Omaha Burke, Ogallala, and Elm Creek. 


Looking forward to the new venture, Mr. Helzer shared, “I am excited to have the opportunity to serve GIPS students as the Academy of Business and Communication principal. Mrs. Gernstein and the Academy staff have done a tremendous job fostering an academy model that is collaborative and thriving. I’m eager to meet with academy staff and community partners over the next few months to learn from them and begin building relationships to provide the best opportunities possible for students in the Academy of Business and Communications.  Thank you to the district administration for providing me with this opportunity to step up and serve in this new capacity.”


“We’re excited about these new leadership opportunities at Grand Island Senior High,” Mr. Jeff Gilbertson, GISH Executive Principal shared, “Fawn Gernstein will make a smooth transition in her new role as the principal of the Academy of Freshman Exploration. Fawn has the skill, talent, and relentless focus to build trusting relationships with students, parents, and staff. We are confident that the high-level student teaching and learning success for all students will continue to thrive within the Academy of Freshman Exploration.  Mr. Helzer has the proven experiences as a secondary teacher at both the high school and middle school level that will match our talented GISH teachers and staff. Mr. Helzer's passion for student learning and career, college, and world readiness will support his transition as the principal of the Academy of Business and Communication. We are grateful to welcome Mr. Helzer to our GISH team.”


Rounding out the announcements is Ms. Kate Crowe who will join Barr Middle School leadership as a new Assistant Principal starting this summer.  Ms. Crowe has been with GIPS for 14 years serving most recently as District Assessment Coordinator and Title 1 School Improvement Coordinator for the last five years.  Prior she served as a 4th Grade Teacher at Dodge Elementary and Instructional Coach at Knickrehm. 


“The opportunities for professional development at GIPS have been wonderful.  I’ve learned so much throughout my tenure with the district and am incredibly grateful.  Being able to work with students and support teachers has always been my passion.  I’m excited about serving in this new leadership opportunity at Barr and to be a part of all the great things happening there.”


Mr. Josue Covarrubias, Barr Principal, echoes the sentiments, “We are very excited to add Ms. Kate Crowe to our administrative team at Barr!  Her years of experience in the district, in multiple roles, have prepared her to help lead our building and move us forward.  Her passion for ensuring students are successful and making sure educators feel supported and empowered will be perfect combinations for our building.  We look forward to everything she brings to this role and for our school.”


Grand Island Public Schools is excited for what the future holds for these leaders and how they’ll help shape the future of our students!

GIPS would also like to note that last month the district shared that Mr. Blake Thompson had previously been named the new Freshman Academy Principal.  GIPS is fully committed to its students and staff and GIPS' decision to move in a different direction is to the benefit of GIPS and all its students and staff.

Dr. Tawana Grover, Superintendent of GIPS, believes this is an encouraging way forward:


“At Grand Island Public Schools we are very pleased to elevate the impact of these leaders. Each of them offers unique talents and experiences that will help us achieve both immediate and long term goals of our district.  They have established and will continue to cultivate relationships with teachers, students, parents, and businesses and will certainly strengthen and expand our reach to even greater connections within our community.”


As these leaders look to move into their roles early this summer, we will be scheduling opportunities for staff and families to connect with them before the next school year.  Thank you, Mrs. Gernstein, Mr. Helzer, and Ms. Crowe, for all you do to make Grand Island Public Schools a great place to be!

Media Inquiries
Mitchell Roush , Marketing & Communications
308-385-5900 ex. 201127
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