Gargas is new principal at GMG

The new GMG High School Principal Jaimie Gargas stands in front of his desk in his office. Gargas has been a teacher st GMG for four years. Allison Graham/Sun Courier

A familiar face is taking on a new role at GMG High School.

Jaimie Gargas has taken over duties as GMG High School Principal.

Gargas has been at GMG for four years. The first three years he was an English teacher and this past year he was the Instructional Coach. He is a native Iowan who graduated from Cedar Falls High School. He is also a father of two, a 28 year old daughter and 25 years old son.

After his high school graduation from Cedar Falls, Gargas joined the Marine Corp where he spent 20 years as a Marine. Towards the end of his Marine Corp career Gargas got his degree in English.

“I kind of had an idea that teaching was the direction I wanted to go when I retired,” Gargas said.

At the time there were no English jobs available in Iowa. He ended up in Oklahoma where he had some friends and there were a lot of open jobs.

Gargas taught in Oklahoma at an inner city school for seven years.

While in Oklahoma City he returned to graduate school and got his Masters in Educational Leadership from Southern Nazarene University.

The day to day commute in Oklahoma began to grow tiresome for Gargas and his Iowa roots were calling him home. He got to the point where he wanted to return to Iowa.

Gargas found his way to GMG after meeting Mark Polich and Ben Petty, the former GMG Superintendent and they offered him a job at GMG.

Gargas lives in Toledo which is a breezy 15 minute drive.

“Traffic now is getting stuck behind a tractor on the way to the co-op. Living in Toledo is great. I’ve got great neighbors and it’s close enough but also far enough that you get a little bit of privacy,” Gargas said.

The people are what Gargas loves about GMG, everyone from the people he meets going to Pronto to just going around town.

“I think we have a great opportunity to be the school family that we can be. I think the biggest thing we’ve been lacking is too much individualism, too much thinking of ourselves and not the team as a whole. That goes for our sports and our activities. We are never going to be successful unless we get our climate to a point where we care about looking out for each other. Hopefully that’s where we are headed,” Gargas said.

Gargas’s new role at GMG has been a bit of a whirlwind. Iowa hasn’t always recognized out of State licenses but according to Gargas that changed as of January.

Gargas had signed a contract to teach English at South Tama next year but that was before the principal role opened up at GMG. With the blessing of STC Superintendent Jared Smith and High School Principal Mark Groteluschen, Gargas was able to get out of the STC contract to pursue the principal role at GMG.

“Within two days I went from having a Regional license to having my Master Teacher and Initial Principal license. Everything lined up to where my predecessor found a new spot, this opened up, the certifications happened and the place I was under contract with let me go to pursue this,” Gargas said.

Gargas joins another new face Kym Stein, the new superintendent for the district.

The two have similar philosophies and according to Gargas one of Stein’s absolute mandates is that GMG is one district.

“We are going to learn how to be a team and that just fits because our mindsets matched,” Gargas said.

Gargas is looking to build on the things he has been a part of during his first four years at GMG.

“I want to get us back to the place where education is foremost in the kids mind. Students want to be challenged. They want high expectations. I want to enable the departments to make decisions they need to make so they can best educate the students. As long as it fits with educational guidelines I’m all for it. The other thing is we need to take a look at things like the attendance policy and how we can make sure people are here and accountable. The long term goal is teaching the students to be personally accountable and taking ownership of their situation,” Gargas said.