Vashon school district selects a new principal for Chautauqua Elementary

Jody Metzger talks to parents at Chautauqua Elementary School on Tuesday. - Leslie Brown/staff photo
Jody Metzger talks to parents at Chautauqua Elementary School on Tuesday.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/staff photo

Jody Metzger, a seasoned educator who has helmed two elementary schools, directed school choirs and taught second, third and fourth grade, has been hired to become the new principal at Chautauqua Elementary School.

Metzger was one of two finalists who visited Vashon on Tuesday. Superintendent Michael Soltman and a search committee chose her Wednesday. The Vashon Island School Board unanimously approved the selection at its meeting Thursday night.

She will replace Kate Baehr, who has helmed the 555-student school for the past four years and is stepping down at the end of June to spend more time with her family.

Metzger is currently the principal at Neely-O'Brien Elementary School in the Kent School District, a position she took two years ago. Prior to that, she was principal of the Friday Harbor Elementary School on San Juan Island for four years, where she worked for Soltman.

In a brief interview Thursday night, Metzger said she was thrilled to be coming to Vashon.

"Having lived on San Juan Island for half my life, I just felt I was at home here," she said.

She was drawn to Chautauqua in part because of its small size, she said. She was also impressed during her interview by the commitment she sees in the staff. She asked Baehr about the attendance rate of teachers and found that absenteeism is rare, a good sign, she said.

Metzger, who received her undergraduate degree in music education from Central Washington State University, said she was also drawn to Vashon because of its creativity.

"It's the arts community of Vashon Island," she said, when asked why the Island appeals to her.

Metzger was a classroom teacher in the San Juans when Soltman worked with her to become a principal. After heading the San Juan Elementary School for four years, she decided to become principal at a larger school and took the position at Neely-O'Brien in the Kent district, a school that had more than 700 students at the time. But the larger district didn't appeal to her, she said, a fact she mentioned to Soltman, with whom she is friends.

When the position at Chautauqua came up, she said, he called her to let her know.

Metzger said she'll miss the diversity at the elementary school in Kent, where 65 percent of the students receive free or reduced-price lunches.

"But the parent involvement here is much higher," she said.

In Friday Harbor, Metzger developed a student assessment program called the Response to Intervention model (RTI), which homes in on individual student needs in various academic disciplines, particularly reading and math. Soltman said the leadership she showed there "will be hugely valuable on Vashon, where we are in the process of aligning our curriculum and implementing RTI in the elementary and middle schools."

"I am confident that Jody will provide very strong leadership to Chautauqua and will continue to build on the school's excellent record," he added.

Celena Yarkin, a parent who served on the selection committee, said she fully endorsed Metzger's appointment.

"I found her to be very sincere and believable," Yarkin said. "It was really apparent that she loves kids and that they are of primary importance ... and that she's a really capable leader and a good listener. She just felt like a really good fit for Vashon."

The entire committee, comprised of teachers, administrators and parents, supported Metzger, Yarkin added. Soltman, she said, "didn't try to sway the process. He was really watching us to see our reactions to her. I felt like it was very professional and very fair and that we all were in the decision together."

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