Middle school the niche for new Bonham principal

After trying his hand at a couple of different careers, Mitch Gerig settled on education and that’s where he plans to stay.
Gerig was recently named principal at Bonham Middle School. This is his 21st year with Ector County Independent School District. A Permian High School graduate, he earned a business and finance degree from the University of Texas Permian Basin and a master’s in educational administration from the University of North Texas.
He got his alternative certification from Region 18 Education Service Center and started off as an early childhood teacher. Currently, he is working toward doctorate in educational administration online from Concordia University.
“I actually attended … school here when it was a junior high,” Gerig said of Bonham. “My three daughters also attended here as well, so it’s kind of neat to come back. I was also an AP (assistant principal) here for four years,” Gerig said.
He was a firefighter for a year and then decided to go back to school. With his degree in business and finance, he ended up working as a claims representative for an insurance company in Richardson, but found that wasn’t for him.
“I wanted to find something where I could help people and I found out doing that I couldn’t really do what I wanted to do. It wasn’t really the place to be to try to help others,” Gerig said.
Since his mother and sister were teachers, Gerig said he decided education was the path he would take. Middle school appears to be his niche.
“… I’ve gotten accustomed to working with this age group. I kind of understand where they’re coming from. I know they’re going through a lot of changes. Even from day to day. … I just feel like they need a lot of guidance and that’s where I feel my (skills) are …,” Gerig said.
Bonham is projected to have about 1,100 students next year and is supposed to have 69 teachers and an assistant principal at every grade level. Gerig said he is about 29 teachers short and seeking an assistant principal.
He previously was an assistant principal at Bonham and associate principal at Ector Middle School and made the transition to Ector College Prep Success Academy, an in-district charter campus. He plans to use some of the same strategies used at Ector at Bonham.
“I know in our district we’re trying to do everything we can to improve scores and improve education with our kids and I think we need to think out of the box. I think what we were doing at Ector is that, especially providing time for intervention during the school day, not trying to get them up here after school or before school because you can’t rely on that,” Gerig said.
“They’re there, so we’re able to do the intervention during that time period after school for an hour and a half. We also help to support the teachers with the discipline center. We have 10 or 11 employees that kind of help with the smaller things, smaller issues. They go ahead and assign lunch detention, after-school detention or whatever it may be. Then that frees the assistant principals to deal with … more serious issues. It also frees the time for them to be in the classroom and working with teachers,” he added.
Being in a position to be of service to others is why Gerig wanted to become a principal, but he added that teaching is the same way.
“We’re here to do what’s best for kids and hopefully have a positive impact on their lives,” he said.
One of the most important things that should be focused on is developing relationships with students.
“When you deal with kids that come from poverty … you have to develop trust with them, and if they don’t trust you, they’re not going to work for you. I think that’s one of the most important things I want to for our staff to focus on is doing that. If you can do that, it’s going to set up an environment to where you can have success academically,” Gerig said.
He also plans to set high expectations for students, regardless of their background.
“I think it’s a disservice if you don’t. They might come to you a grade level or two below in reading, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to still have high expectations for them because you have to and so that’s important …,” Gerig said.
Collaboration among teachers through professional learning communities also is going to help improve scores, and the district’s middle school redesign sets time aside for that.
Gerig replaces James Ramage as Bonham principal. Ramage will be principal at Falcon Early College High School.
Ramage said he and Gerig started together at Bonham in 2007 with Ramage as principal and Gerig as assistant principal.
“We dove in head first. We were the third group in three years. I was the third principal, so we really had to put our foot down on discipline and stuff like that,” Ramage said.
“By the next year, we made some significant changes. Working together that second year was much, much better,” Ramage said.
He added that Gerig will be a good fit as principal.
“Mitch will do great. I’m very excited for him. He’ll do a great job here. He’s very deserving and I’m looking forward to the success he has,” Ramage said.
Gerig is married to Rachel Gerig, the instructional services director at Odessa High School.