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GIPS Names New Leaders for Barr & Westridge Middle Schools

Headshots of Mr. Joe Eckerman and Mrs. Kayla Wichman

April 28, 2023

Grand Island Public Schools is pleased to share the news of Middle School Principal and Assistant Principal transitions at Barr and Westridge for the upcoming school year!

Starting this summer, Barr Middle School will have a new leadership team with Mr. Joe Eckerman stepping into the role of Principal at Barr Middle School.

Mr. Eckerman has been a positive, impactful leader at GIPS since 2020.  He has served as Principal of Gates Elementary for the last three years. Prior to his time with Gates, he served as Dean of Culture for four years and a 5th grade teacher with Omaha Public Schools. Eckerman carries a Masters degree from Concordia University, Education Specialist degree from Doane University and is currently working on his Educational Doctorate also from Doane. 

Speaking to his exciting leadership role, Eckerman shared:

“I am really excited to take on this new opportunity. I am a big believer in building positive relationships with students, staff and parents. I look forward to this opportunity to do it on a larger scale.”

For Assistant Principals, Barr will be welcoming back Ms. Sheree Stockwell.  Ms. Stockwell has served as Principal of Jefferson Elementary for the last six years.  Mrs. Jessica Myers will be joining the team as Assistant Principal as well, coming over from Millard Public Schools where she served as a high school math teacher and participated in the MPS Leadership Cadre. 

These announcements come at the heels of the current leadership expanding their careers as well.

Mr. Josue Covarrubias, current Barr Principal, has been named the new Head Principal at Boys Town in Omaha. Mr. Lloy McIntyre, Barr A.P., will be the new Superintendent at Anselmo Merna Public Schools. And Ms. Kate Crowe, Barr A.P., will be assuming the Principal position at Jefferson Elementary here in GIPS.

GIPS cannot say enough about each of these three leaders, Covarrubias, McIntyre, and Crowe, who have helped shape and prepare Barr for the next chapter of innovative learning and teaching. Each of them are strong leaders who will certainly continue making waves in the education  arena. 

Continuing with the exciting transitions will be a new leadership team at Westridge Middle School as well. Mrs. Kayla Wichman has been named the new Principal for Westridge after Mr. Brad Wolfe announced his well-deserved retirement.

Mrs. Kayla Wichman has been a steady leader with GIPS since 2018 and is certainly a familiar face for our Westridge Cougars. She has served as Assistant Principal at Westridge Middle School for the past 5 years.  Wichman carries credentials from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Peru State College and the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Speaking to the opportunity to serve Westridge in a larger role, Wichman shared:

“I have a passion for middle school and have loved getting to know the Westridge family! It is an honor to be given the opportunity to lead this fantastic staff as we continue our path to excellence.”

Westridge Assistant Principal, Ms. Stefanie Novotny, is also moving into an exciting new role.  She has been named the new 7-12 Principal at Yutan Public Schools. Novotny served as a teacher and leader at GIPS for 4 years and her new opportunity was simply too good to pass up. GIPS is grateful for her leadership in the district and proud to see her take on her new role.

To fill out the Westridge administrative team  two new Assistant Principals have been brought into the fold.  They are Mr. Scott Gibson and Mrs. Tracy Jakubowski.

Gibson brings a strong familiarity of the area to GIPS. He has served as a Skilled & Technical Sciences (STS) Instructor at Northwest Public Schools from 2014 - 2021 before venturing to Millard West High School. While with Millard, he completed the Leadership Cadre at Millard Public Schools.

Jakubowski happily steps back into the GIPS district after serving as a Student Teacher Supervisor at UNL and Education Consultant at American Alliance for Innovative Systems (AAIS) this past year. Prior to that, Jakubowski served in many notable capacities for GIPS including, GISH Freshman Academy History Teacher and Team Lead (‘16-’22), West Lawn Integration Specialist (‘15-’16), and Walnut ELA and Social Studies Teacher (‘09-’15).

Looking ahead to the bold Middle School revisioning process, the district is energized by the young, proven leaders stepping-in to champion student achievement, teacher development, and family and community support. 

Mr. Matt Fisher, GIS Superintendent affirmed:

“While we will certainly miss the proven leaders who are leaving the district, we feel we have been able  to put leaders with very complimentary skills together in each of these buildings. We are excited to see how they put those skills to work leading students and staff.”

As these leaders look to move into their roles early this summer, the district will be scheduling opportunities for staff 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!