Gaiptman to stay as district school boss

John Gaiptman joined the New Westminster School District in February, after retiring from his job at the helm of the Greater Victoria School District. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
John Gaiptman joined the New Westminster School District in February, after retiring from his job at the helm of the Greater Victoria School District.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

The man sent to rescue of the New Westminster school district will be sticking around.

The board of education is suspending its search for a new superintendent after John Gaiptman agreed to continue as the district's top administrator.

Gaiptman retired as Greater Victoria district's superintendent and CEO in February. After being recruited by the Ministry of Education, he came to New West Feb. 17 to work in the same roles, for an undefined term. He took over a district reeling from accumulated deficits of about $5 million.

When it appointed Gaiptman, the board said it would continue its executive search for a permanent superintendent.

They've stopped the search because they like what they see.

"The board has been impressed with his ability in such a short time to develop an understanding for our district," said board chair Jonina Campbell. "Not just for our financial situation, but our culture and our policies, and to lead change in those areas where change was needed."

She said Gaiptman has worked closely with the Ministry of Education on solving the district's financial woes. She added he has also communicated well with the community, parents, staff and the board.

"He's a very hard worker and he's been able to in a very short amount of time understand the district's needs and move it forward," said Campbell. "The board is very fortunate that he's come to New West and that he's working with us and the board is unanimous in his continuing working."

Gaiptman said he has not been scared off by the school district's financial and political woes in recent years.

"Just the reverse. I have found this is a district that has a lot of talent that needs to clear up some things including our shortfall, our deficit. And we need to make sure our policies, regulations and bylaws, the things that guide our district are up to date. I have found the people here are willing to make the changes so we can move forward," said Gaiptman.

He pointed out, though, that he remains on a month-to-month contract.

"If at any time the board feels I'm not continuing to make a difference they can make the decision with no monetary (consequence) on whether I should go," said Gaiptman.

"One of the things we have to do is continue to work in public, to continue to ensure we don't slide and spend money we don't have and that our plans are not just for 2014-15 school year. As soon as we pass the 2014-15 budget at the end of this month we start work on the 2015-16 budget. There's no such thing as a budget season."

Trustee Casey Cook said it's an understatement to say he's much more optimistic about the district's future since Gaiptman's arrival.

"I'm elated. It's by far the best option we could be looking for. He is incredibly knowledgeable and that's demonstrated in the changes that have been taking place," said Cook. "The changes that are being made are long overdue, and the culture of the organization is changing as we move with John Gaiptman's initiatives."

Cook said he knew Gaiptman was going to be a good hire right from his initial interview.

"His candour and his commitment to making very clear what your principles are and operating off those principles [were impressive]," said Cook.

The 2014-15 budget process will continue when the board meets Tuesday (April 22). It will be finalized the following Tuesday.

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