By Sterling McGinn

After a lengthy search for a 7-12 grade principal, the Tahquamenon Area School (TAS) Board of Education voted to hire Brian Sikkenga—a familiar face to the Newberry school system and community. Sikkenga served as athletic director and physical education instructor.

The board made the decision despite opposition from trustees Kristine McCraren and Jeff Puckett at their regular monthly meeting held Monday, September 19 at 6 p.m. in the library.

Trustees Alicia Heim and Angela Harris were not in attendance and only two members of the public were present.

Sikkenga had previously been hired in 2017 as Newberry High School athletic director, physical education teacher and dean of students. He left the TAS district for a coaching and teaching position outside of the district.

Prior to serving at TAS, he taught at Whitefish Township Schools in Paradise.

The school had been searching for a principal for some time following the departure of principal Cliff Fossitt. The position was previously filled by superintendent Stacy Price.

“This has been a long process—the committee is very excited about Brian coming,” Price said. “He has the ability to relate to the students and has fun at the same time.”

Sikkenga will have to take a two-year program to earn his principal certification, which will be covered by the district.

“Obviously that is going to be monitored and we are going to be able to stay on top of this?” asked trustee Bruce Klusmeyer. “I recall being in this situation before and it caused us a lot of distress.”

Puckett questioned the payment of the certification program. “Is there any precedence to that…have we done this for anyone else?”

Following the discussion, the board voted to hire Sikkenga to fill the principal position. President Stuart McTiver cast a yes vote, breaking what had been a 2-2 tied vote.

Immediately following the hiring of Sikkenga, the board unanimously voted to hire his wife, Sarah, as a kindergarten teacher. Both Brian and Sarah will begin their new positions with the district on January 23, 2023.

In other business, the board discussed the possibly of adding a third kindergarten section to the elementary school. “We currently have about 38 or 39 kindergartners coming in, and some of them are showing some challenges coming into a structured setting,” Price said.

Price, Elementary Principal Kendra Feldhusen and the kindergarten teachers proposed to have a third section, which would be a developmental kindergarten class to help students who need additional time to get acclimated to the setting.

Currently, the school has a regular kindergarten teacher serving one section, and the second section is instructed by a school interventionist serving as a full-time teacher. The school district has  two interventionists—one for math and the other for reading.

The third section would be instructed by the other interventionist until Sarah Sikkenga begins her new position in January.

The other interventionist will go back to their regular position at the beginning of the semester.

Following discussion on the matter, the board voted to add a third section to the kindergarten.

Finally, Price informed the board that the roof replacement project should be completed by the first part of October.