Return to Headlines

GIPS Announces Leadership Promotions


March 14th, 2024

Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS) is pleased to share the news of leadership transitions at the district, Barr Middle School, Knickrehm Elementary, and Grand Island Senior High!

Starting this summer, Mr. Joe Eckerman and Mrs. Opal Bentley will be stepping into district support roles. Eckerman has been named the MTSS Positive Supports Coordinator for GIPS and Bentley named MTSS Academic & Assessment Coordinator.

Joe Eckerman and Opal Bentley

Mr. Joe Eckerman has been a positive, impactful leader at GIPS since 2020.  He has served as Principal of Gates Elementary for three years before moving into the Principal role at Barr Middle School this school year. Prior to his time with Gates, he served as Dean of Culture for four years and a 5th grade teacher with Omaha Public Schools.

Speaking of landing what he calls his “dream job” Mr. Eckerman shared, “This area of work has always been my passion. I am excited to partner with all levels.”

The Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) Positive Supports Coordinator is a role that has been with the district for five years. The role itself has been in transition this year under an Interim Coordinator.  As the full-time Coordinator, Mr. Eckerman will lead the small team of dedicated MTSS Educators we have in the district and will lead all efforts for teacher and student support in our schools.

Mrs. Opal Bentley has been an enthusiastic leader in the district since 2021.  She has served as Principal of Knickrehm Elementary for the last three years. Prior to her time at Knickrehm, she also served as a Student Success Liaison at Starr Elementary. She has extensive experience in implementing the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) and its intersection with academics at the building level.

Looking forward to the new opportunity, Bentley shared, “I am extremely excited to join the district team in this very important work. I look forward to being able to support all GIPS schools.”

Serving as MTSS Academic & Assessment Coordinator, Bentley will be the go-to resource for all GIPS schools in preparation for assessments, tracking academic pursuits, collaborating within school continuous improvement plans, and providing professional development for staff.  As the district office continues to navigate staffing to meet district needs, Bentley’s primary focus on Academic & Assessment support will help fill gaps previously left by two vacated positions.  Her expertise will be a welcome addition to building and classroom level support for students and staff.

With Eckerman and Bentley set to take on district leadership positions, GIPS is also pleased to share the Principal promotions at the schools they previously served.

Sheree Stockwell

At Barr Middle School, Ms. Sheree Stockwell has been named the new Principal for the Bulldogs.

Ms. Stockwell has been with GIPS for a number of years.  She served as Principal for Jefferson Elementary from 2017-2023. During her Jefferson tenure she earned recognition as the Nebraska Association of Elementary School Principals’ “Outstanding New Principal of the Year” award.  Prior to that, she served as Assistant Principal at Barr from 2013-2017, and then ventured back to Barr as an A.P. this school year.

Speaking to her new leadership opportunity, Stockwell shared, “Working with middle schoolers, their families and Barr staff has been a great experience this past year. I look forward to continuing our growth and positive impact for years to come!” 

At Knickrehm Elementary, Mrs. Jennie Ritter has been named the new Principal for the Cougars.

Jennie Ritter

Mrs. Ritter is a familiar face within GIPS as she has served as the Principal of Seedling Mile Elementary this school year.  Prior to joining Seedling Mile, she served as a district administrator in the capacity of Elementary Curriculum Specialist for the Republic School District in Missouri for four years.  Before her time in Missouri, Ritter served as a 3rd grade teacher at Starr Elementary School in GIPS from 2006-2009.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Seedling Mile and can't speak highly enough about the students, staff, and families here. We have made great gains this year and I am so proud of everyone involved.” Ritter shared, “Having said that, I am very excited and honored to have been selected as the new Knickrehm principal. It will be fulfilling to me to be able to focus my efforts solely on being a principal in a larger school now that I have some experience under my belt. Mrs. Bentley has done an excellent job setting us up for success. The longevity of the staff at Knickrehm speaks volumes.”

GIPS will immediately begin the search for the next right leader for Seedling Mile Elementary and the open Assistant Principal position at Barr Middle School. The district will share more as the process develops in the coming weeks.

Eon Lemburg

Rounding out the district promotions is Mr. Eon Lemburg who has been named the new Assistant Activities Director at Grand Island Senior High (GISH).

Lemburg has been teaching in the district at Walnut Middle School since 2016.  He has served as the Walnut Activities Director for the last three years, in addition to his time teaching social studies. 

“I look forward to continuing to network and build positive relationships with everyone in the district and in the community to represent our brand, ‘GI’, to the best of my ability,” Lemburg shared.

As the Assistant A.D. for the Islanders, Lemburg will serve alongside Mr. Chris Ladwig, who is the current GISH Assistant A.D. Ladwig will assume the role of GISH Activities Director this summer, as current A.D. Cindy Wells is set to retire.

Mr. Matt Fisher, GIPS Superintendent affirmed the new opportunities for this crop of impactful educators, “We are excited to have these leaders bring their vision and experience to their new roles! Seeing our own people grow as education leaders is a point of great pride for us.  Great things are ahead for this group as they continue supporting our students and staff.”

As these leaders look to move into their roles early this summer, the district will be scheduling opportunities for staff, students, and families to connect with them before the next school year. 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!