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May 13, 2021

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Battle Ground changes include new principal at Laurin campus

Longtime Prairie High Principal Drake will take over at middle school

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

Battle Ground Public Schools has shuffled several of its administrators, citing what it termed “challenges” at the growing Laurin Middle School campus.

Matt Kesler, a first-time principal who was at Laurin Middle School, will move to River HomeLink to be an administrator for River Online Learning, the district’s online program. Travis Drake, Prairie High School’s longtime principal, will head to Laurin to fill Kesler’s position. Prairie Assistant Principal Stephanie Watts will step into Drake’s position on an interim basis.

Area districts typically wait until the end of the school year to announce administrative changes, but district spokeswoman Rita Sanders said the district wanted to make changes now rather than wait. She said Laurin is growing, and the campus is one of the older buildings in the district. That creates an environment that requires “an experienced leader,” she said.

“It’s just we needed more experience, pure and simple,” Sanders said.

Superintendent Mark Ross also alerted district staff of the changes in an email Wednesday.

“In this case, we felt that it was critical to have an experienced administrative team immediately begin working at Laurin to help them with the challenges they face as a campus in one of the highest student growth areas of the district,” Ross said.

Neither Sanders’ nor Ross’ email offered many details in terms of what “challenges” the campus faces. Sanders pointed to growing pains like not enough parking or office space.

“It’s everything,” Sanders said.

Other administrators will also be affected by the shifts. Eric Sakshaug, the former dean for students at Battle Ground High School, is heading to Laurin as its assistant principal. Erin Thompson, who was assistant principal at Laurin, will hold the same job on an interim basis at Prairie. Ben Ziegler, an administrative intern, was named the interim dean for students at Prairie High School.

“We wanted to make those changes now so we could help students and staff be successful,” Sanders said.

Laurin Middle School and its nearby elementary school, Glenwood Heights Primary School, are the fastest-growing campuses in the district. A 2018 report by demographers E.D. Hovee and Co. projected that the school could add as many as 380 to 440 students over the next 10 years. Laurin is already the largest middle school in the district with 671 students, according to the district.

The Battle Ground school board recently voted to convert Maple Grove K-8 into a K-4 school campus beginning next year. Its fifth- through eighth-grade students will go elsewhere, while 243 Glenwood Heights Primary School students will move to Maple Grove. At a district presentation on redistricting earlier this month, district staff noted that the proposal will not shrink Laurin’s large student body but will give those students more room at the campus.

Drake has worked at Prairie High School since 2010, but in an emotional farewell on his blog post, said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

He also expressed gratitude to his students, and apologized for not having a chance to formally say goodbye to them.

“From the bottom of my heart, I love all of you,” Drake wrote. “Current students, past students, you all mean so much to me and have been a huge part of my life.”

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