New VC principal moving up to smaller schools |

New VC principal moving up to smaller schools

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Michele Van Voorst wasn’t sure what to expect when she applied for the position of principal at Hugh Gallagher Elementary School in Virginia City.

She knew what to expect professionally, since she has taught for 18 years and completed her master’s degree a year ago. But, she said, she taught mostly in larger schools starting with inner-city schools in San Diego for four years, then moving to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., for 10. The student body she was responsible for got smaller still when she moved to Carson City four years ago.

Hugh Gallagher in Virginia City has only 150 or so students, and Van Voorst said she was impressed.

“I think the small environment of people knowing each other and helping each other is fantastic,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to working there.”

Van Voorst went up the hill Tuesday to meet her new staff and the rest of the school community. She appreciates the support she’s received from Superintendent Robert Slaby and others.

“Dr. Slaby and the other principals have been extremely helpful and welcoming,” she said. “The staff and the parents, they’ve all been very kind, very welcoming.”

She was selected by the Storey County School Board last week to fill the position, which has been vacant since the controversial resignation of former principal Sue Moulden last December. A lead teacher, Sue Pursel, along with Virginia City Middle School Principal Todd Hess, have been in charge of the school since then.

She will start officially on Aug. 1, for the new school year, but has already volunteered her efforts writing grants.

Van Voorst has spent her entire career teaching elementary students, second through fourth grades. She has taught all subjects, and is the physical education teacher at Seeliger Elementary School.

Though she is familiar with the departure of Moulden, she said she is undeterred by it.

“I think I’ll bring a positive, optimistic, communicative personality,” she said. “It doesn’t make me uneasy because Dr. Slaby and I have excellent communication. I have faith in him, and he’s very supportive of me.”

Hugh Gallagher is rated “excellent” under No Child Left Behind and, Van Voorst said, she will work hard to continue that.

“I’m just going to work very hard with the staff to continue the excellence in teaching that they’re doing now,” she said.

Van Voorst said her home in Gardnerville is up for sale, and she hopes to move to Virginia City or Virginia City Highlands to enroll her two children in Virginia City’s middle and high school.

Her husband, Mark, is the new principal at Fremont Elementary School in Carson City, she said.

Van Voorst earned her bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and her master’s at the University of Phoenix.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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