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Sheridan School says goodbye to Kris Knutson

By: Liz Kellar The News Messenger
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There were lots of tears at a heartfelt good-bye barbecue organized by Principal Kris Knutson at Sheridan Elementary School Monday evening that turned into an overwhelming show of support for the popular administrator by the community. Knutson was amazed by the turnout, remarking that “we had seating for 350 and it wasn’t enough.” Knutson, who has been at Sheridan for four years, is leaving due to budget cutbacks. On May 20, trustees of the Western Placer Unified School District adopted a plan to trim the 2008-09 school year budget by nearly $3 million that included eliminating the principal position at Sheridan. Sheridan will share a principal with Phoenix High School. “This is tough for me,” Knutson said. “This barbecue was my idea, but it was meant for me to say thank you to everybody. I wanted to say thank you to them, but it hasn’t turned out that way.” While Knutson remains hopeful the budget will be restored, along with the principalship at Sheridan School, he has accepted a position as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Carlin C. Coppin Elementary School — and is interviewing there for the principal slot being vacated by John Bliss, who is retiring. Knutson also is looking outside the district for other principal positions, adding that he wants to stay in administration. Friday, the school hosted an assembly with a special surprise – each class, beginning with the kindergartners, marched in wearing handmade “ties” decorated to honor Knutson. All the ties were collected Monday and put into a scrapbook that was given to Knutson at the end of the barbecue. Knutson addressed the crowd after everyone was fed, telling them, “We’ve forged a lot of friendships. I’m proud to say I’m probably friends with everyone in this town and I thank you for that.” Knutson reminded the crowd that while they were losing a full-time principal, the district had made a commitment to keeping the school open. He also asked them to welcome the incoming administrator who will oversee Sheridan School next year, John Wyatt. “You have been wonderful to me and I hope you are just as wonderful to him,” Knutson said. “You’ve allowed me to become a part of this community and that’s special,” he continued. “You guys, this school, this community is very, very important. Hopefully, I’ve been a big part of your lives and you’ve been a big part of mine. Saying goodbye is a tough thing for me … Thank you for letting me be your principal.” Knutson got a standing ovation from the crowd after he finished speaking. School secretary Karen Roberts presented Knutson with a gift from the school staff, saying, “I see a community united and who is behind our community? Kris Knutson. We have all benefited from his leadership ... We will always remember the days you were here and we wish you well.” Cody and Colette Evans attended the barbecue, sitting with their daughter, Nichole, 8, who was sporting the “tie” she made for Knutson. “We came to be supportive of the school,” Colette Evans said. “We’re going to miss him.” “We home-schooled our kids for years but when Kris came, we put them back in,” Cody Evans said. After the barbecue, many parents and students waited their turn to say a few words to Knutson. Nicole Barnett, 9, was overcome after she received a hug, pressing her hands to her face in a vain attempt to keep the tears at bay. “I had a problem with a friend and he helped me with my problems,” she explained later, still struggling to keep her emotions in check. “He’s loving and he’s always willing to help.” “Longtime” parents Christy Castillo and Patti Francis took on the job of collecting all the decorated “ties” for Knutson’s scrapbook. “We’ve gone through a handful of principals,” Castillo said. “He’s the only one who didn’t use Sheridan as a stepping-stone.” “We won him over,” laughed Francis. Knutson, while obviously emotional, turned philosophical over his time at Sheridan. “I never would have envisioned having this kind of an effect on a community,” he said. “It’s been an amazing time.”