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March 14, 2012 | 08:36 AMLINN — Traver Principal Craig Collins considered himself lucky.
Collins, 52, has been able to advance his career without leaving his hometown of Lake Geneva. First, he became a principal at St. Francis de Sales, a private Catholic school. Then, seven years ago, principal at Traver.
Effective July 1, he will realize his long-term goal to become administrator of a public school. He will be Traver's administrator after Mary DeYoung retires..
"I wanted to stay in the area," Collins said about why he took the job there after completing his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. "Both my wife and I are from this area and our families are here."
After college, Collins worked at St. Francis de Sales for 17 years — 11 as principal.
This likely helped when he applied for the principal's position at Traver. At that time, he was looking for a job which would help him achieve his long-term goal of becoming a public school administrator. He said in a private school such as St. Francis, there was no administrator. But to become a public school administrator, one needs public school experience.
So when DeYoung announced her retirement, Collins heard opportunity knocking.
"It's because you're in a decision-making position," Collins said about why he wanted the job. "You're the one hiring new teachers. You're the one who's reviewing and applying curriculum changes. As a teacher, you could have great ideas, but your administrator could say, 'We can't do that.'"
Now, in four months, he will be the one who can say what can and can't be done.
In some respects, Collins won't have a steep learning curve. He said he won't have to "start cold." He's been the principal for seven years, he knows the kids, he knows the School Board.
But in other areas, it's all new.
"It's still a new position for me and getting accustomed to that will be the biggest challenge," Collins said. "We have a good school and some of the challenges that others might face we don't have to necessarily deal with, such as an old school building needs to be fixed. Some people, they're starting their new jobs with these kind of issues."
Then there's the other issue, the one everyone's talking about.
"The budget is definitely going to be a challenge," he said. "That's going to be a challenge for everyone, though. I don't think that's unique (to Traver). Just about every school in the state is facing these issues."
But Collins said he's thankful to be working with DeYoung, who also is business manager for the Brookwood School District and, in his words, "is great with that stuff."
Collins said he's working on next year's budget with her right now.
"Just in general terms, the challenge is maintaining your programming on fewer dollars," he said. "When you start to cut programs and staff, obviously, you're not offering the same quality programming."
It's also likely people will take on additional tasks. Collins said "it's a team effort, and people realize it."
"It is a challenge, especially in a small school where you don't have excess staff. It's not like we'll cut one of three art teachers and make the other classes bigger. When you're in a small school and you make cuts, these (programs) are usually just gone."
However, the opportunity for leadership has its allure. Before he was asked if he's planning any major changes in his future as Traver administrator, Collins spoke of how important it is for the school to continue exposing children to technology. They still provide laptops to fifth- through eighth-graders, and Collins said it's something Traver teachers "believe in."
But don't expect any major changes, at least not immediately.
"I think it's not really all that exciting just because I've been here for seven years and I've already been involved in several things," Collins said. "I'm just looking forward to grow these things here we've already started, like our technology program."