‘Energetic’ Sheboygan administrator picked to lead Port High

Officials say charismatic Biertzer stood out among candidates in the running to succeed Gabrielse
Ozaukee Press staaff

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board on Monday hired a high school principal described by members as the type of charismatic leader the district is looking for.

“She’s quite something,” board member Sara McCutcheon said of Rachel Biertzer, who after five years as an associate principal at Sheboygan North High School will become the principal of Port Washington High School on July 1.

“She’s impressive. She’s energetic. And I can’t wait for her to start,” McCutcheon, who was among those to interview her, said.

Board member Yvonne Klotz, who also participated in the interview process, said, “She certainly has a lot of energy. She’s going to fit right in.”

Biertzer, 37, one of 23 people to apply for the job, said her goal for Port High is to go from “good to great.”

“We need to see what we’re doing well and continue that, then improve where we need to,” she said during an interview Tuesday.

Biertzer said she believes the mission of educators is to help students identify their goals in life and provide them the means by which to achieve them.

The fact that she will be joining a staff of new or relatively new administrators is not lost on her.

“I’m really excited about joining a new team of administrators,” she said.

When Biertzer takes the helm of Port High on July 1, Director of Business Services Mel Nettesheim, who came to the district in January 2021, will be the senior member of the administrative leadership team, followed by Supt. Dave Watkins, who is in his first school year.

Two other top administrators, Director of Special Education Brian Sutton, who will replace Duane Woelfel, and Director of Instruction Tammy Thompson Kapp, who will succeed Chris Surfus, will begin work in the district on July 1.

The new administrators replace leaders with more than a combined century of experience in the district, which is impressive, Biertzer said.

“It says a lot about Port Washington and this district to see the type of tenures these administrators had,” she said. “I look at this as an opportunity to contribute to the new ideas coming into the district and band together to support the most important asset in Port Washington — the kids.”

Banding together is a significant theme for Biertzer, who comes from a school whose motto is “better together.”

“I’m kind of considered the better together lady at my school,” she said. “It’s not about just one of us but all of us. It’s hard to be great alone, but when you work as a part of a team it’s achievable.

“I just really believe in the power of people bonding together.”

Biertzer grew up in Appleton and earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

She stayed in Oshkosh and was an English teacher at Oshkosh North High School  for  nine years. During that time, she was also the girls’ varsity basketball coach.

She left in 2017 to take her first administrative job at Sheboygan North High School.

“The idea of being a principal in a one high school district is very appealing to me,” Biertzer, who has only worked in districts with two high schools, said.

For her, Biertzer said, teaching at the high school level is rewarding, and being involved with students outside of school is part of the job.

“The really fun part of being part of a high school community is seeing kids outside of school doing what they love,” Biertzer, who said she will be a regular at extracurricular events, said.

The interview process used to select Biertzer and other new administrators, which involved multiple rounds of interviews conducted by about 45 people representing parents, other district residents, students, district employees, school board members and administrators, was described by board members and Biertzer as thorough and intense.

“I felt that through this interview process the district was definitely going to get the person it was looking for,” Biertzer said. “I just hoped and prayed it was me.

“I would describe the process as intense, but people who know me know I appreciate that.”

Watkins said, “Hands down she (Biertzer) was the top pick of all the groups that interviewed her.”

The other finalist for the job was West Bend East High School Principal John Graf.

Biertzer and her husband live in the Town of Sheboygan, but are fans of the Port Washington area.

“My husband and I are taking time to make that decision, especially given the current state of the housing market, but there’s a strong possibility we’ll find ourselves moving south,” she said.

Biertzer said she believes in being part of a community, and that’s easier done if she lives where she works.

“I love being a part of the fabric of a community, and Port Washington is just a really cool place,” she said. “Duluth Trading Co. is probably my favorite store in Wisconsin and I love Twisted Willow.”

Biertzer will succeed Port High Principal Thad Gabrielse, who resigned Jan. 24 after being arrested for drunken driving on Dec. 23.

Assistant principals Dan Solorzano and Nate Hinze, who is also the school’s athletic director, have been in charge since Gabrielse was placed on leave on Dec. 29.

Although Biertzer won’t start work at Port High until the summer, she will be in the district five days this school year to meet with teachers, other employees, students and administrators, Watkins said.

She will be paid $112,000 a year.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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