Archive for Thursday, February 17, 2005

It’s been Basehor-Linwood for a career

For 22 years, Brenda De Groot’s versatility has helped fill many roles

February 17, 2005

It's been a winding, two-decades plus career odyssey for Brenda De Groot, a lifetime Basehor-Linwood School District educator and administrator, and one whose path isn't likely to end soon.

"Just my loyalty and love for this district," De Groot said, explaining her longevity with the same district. "I've had opportunities to go elsewhere and I haven't done it because I like this district so much.

"The only thing, from a young child on, I ever wanted to be was a teacher. I really had no aspirations of being an administrator, but in working with all of the administrators I have worked with, they kind of nurtured me and mentored me and said 'you need to be more involved.'"

And more involved she has become.

As versatile as a Swiss Army knife, De Groot's 22-year career arc has seen a humble beginning as a substitute teacher to a rise as director of the Basehor-Linwood Virtual School, a state-honored program, and now, Glenwood Ridge Elementary School principal. In between, there were stints as assistant high school principal and athletic director.

In 2004, De Groot's role again changed when school district officials installed her as principal at Glenwood Ridge for the second time in as many years. De Groot has assumed responsibilities at the school after resignations from then-school principals.

Both principal resignations came suddenly and left the district searching for a mid-year replacement.

Seeing that a job needed done, De Groot, as she's done in the past, volunteered for the interim job at Glenwood Ridge both times.

"I'm willing to do it," De Groot said. "The district has never forced me into anything. I saw a need and volunteered. I've always tried to help out as much as I could. It wasn't about money or anything. It was about doing what I could to help teachers, administrators and students. It's been fun being able to do that."

Jill Hackett, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent, said De Groot's natural abilities made her a logical candidate to fill in at Glenwood Ridge.

"She's someone who I think has a lot of leadership skills, naturally and developed," Hackett said. "She's very good at bringing people together. She understands the role of the student, parent and administrator. She helps everybody, I think, perform at their peak levels."

De Groot began her career in 1981 as a physical education teacher at then-Basehor High School. For 13 years, she worked as a teacher and also coached volleyball, basketball, track and sponsored the school's cheerleading team. In 1997, she was promoted to assistant principal and athletic director. She volunteered for the assistant principal assignment after learning that administrators were short-handed.

Her stint as assistant principal would serve as a one-year precursor for her next role -- director of the newly founded Basehor-Linwood Virtual School. Initially, she worked with the school on a part-time basis; the school, which specializes in on-line learning for non-traditional students, was a new idea and school district administrators were unsure of its long-term potential.

"We really didn't know how we were going to run it, what it was going to take," De Groot said. "It was really on a volunteer basis. It became more than what we counted on."

In 1998, the school's inaugural year, just 63 students were enrolled in the program and the Virtual School had a faculty of only six teachers, who, like De Groot, also worked as volunteers. Today, after numerous honors bestowed upon the Virtual School from the state department of education, the school has an enrollment of 376 students and a faculty of more than 30 teachers.

State education officials have credited the Basehor-Linwood program as a pioneer for on-line learning and a model for other school districts to emulate when starting similar programs.

Though De Groot won't accept credit for the school's success, others do so for her.

"She has definitely taken the virtual school to the next level, from where it began to where it is today," Hackett said. "She understood that every good program has to have a core purpose. It started as a skeleton idea and she's filled in the parts along the way."

While working as Glenwood Ridge principal, De Groot is maintaining responsibilities at the Virtual School. Her assistant at the Virtual School, Nicole Williams, is handling day-to-day duties, but De Groot is still the lead administrator for the overall program.

Although she's fond of Glenwood Ridge, De Groot said she will not remain as principal there.

"I love my job and I love what I'm doing right now," she said. "But, I'm not ready to pass the baton -- there's more potential at the Virtual School and I want to be a part of that.

"The staff and the students at Glenwood Ridge have been very kind to me," she added. "It's a great place, a very loving place. I think my nitch in life is at the middle school and high school levels, but Glenwood Ridge is definitely growing on me."

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