Sanibel School Reopening With New Leadership

by SC Reporter Wendy McMullen

New Sanibel School Principal Jennifer Lusk holds the position for which she’s trained all her life. SC photo by Wendy McMullen

The Sanibel School is set to open next month with all the repairs completed from Hurricane Ian in September 2022, and two new extremely-enthusiastic leaders are at the helm.

Principal Jennifer Lusk has the job she’s wanted and trained for all her life. She has bachelor and master degrees in Educational Leadership and is certified by the State of Florida in Educational Leadership. In addition she holds a coveted Green Belt in Leadership from the globally recognized International Association for Six Sigma Certification.

Vice Principal Jill Gurgal is equally excited because she has achieved a long-held dream: a position at The Sanibel School.

Both women believe in educating the whole child and are now in the process of planning a wide range of new ideas and activities to help children develop their talents.

“We know we can handle the academics, I want to introduce the child to other things they may be good at,” said Lusk. “I want to make sure that every child who comes through these doors feels welcome and supported.”

In order to do that, Lusk and her team are planning fun activities, which include biking trips to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, Dodge Ball Tournaments, Fire House parties, fishing and chess clubs, boaters’ licenses for 6th graders, and even Cupcake Wars.

The Sanibel School is known for its focus on the environment, so there will be environmental field trips to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, as well as STEM trips to NASA, Busch Gardens and others places of local interest.

Principal Lusk is in a unique position to introduce new activities. She is one of a rare breed: a native of Lee County, born in Fort Myers. She went to school at Gulf Elementary and Bishop Verot, and graduated from Barry University on the east coast of Florida.

She also lives on Captiva Island, where her husband is an officer with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, so she understands both islands and the greater area intimately.

Vice Principal Jill Gurgal is reveling in being at the school she had wanted to work in for many years. SC photo by Wendy McMullen

Vice Principal Gurgal has worked for the Lee County School District since 2006, and was Assistant Principal at Skyline Elementary School in Cape Coral for six years. She grew up in Pennsylvania and attended college in Maine and has a Master’s Degree in Leadership.

She says she is so excited to join The Sanibel School because of its strong family involvement, student achievement and strong sense of community.

“Whenever I would pass the Sanibel School, I would say, ‘I would love to work there,’” she said, adding that when the position became open, she jumped at it. “I was looking for this job. There is only one place I would have left Skyline for and this is it.”

Principal Lusk’s top priorities this year are increasing enrollment which dropped from 288 to 230 after Hurricane Ian and communicating and collaborating openly with parents. She also wants to focus on involving families in volunteer opportunities.

The first of these opportunities will be to join the Parent Teacher Association at the Open House from 5 to7 p.m. Aug. 8 at the school, 3840 Sanibel Captiva Rd. The school will also need help on the first day of school, Aug. 10 , at the Back to School Pie Party on Aug. 25, and in the school library on a rotation basis.

School staff have also planned a volunteer training session on Aug. 29.

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