PAYETTE — It has taken more than 30 years, but Robin Gilbert finally landed her dream job.
On July 5, Gilbert took over as superintendent of the Payette School District after serving with the Middleton School District for more that 30 years, most recently as director of instruction and student achievement.
Gilbert succeeds past superintendent Pauline King, who retired after last school year.
“I began looking (for superintendent jobs) last November and last December and there were a few options, but Payette was the one out of all of these that really seemed to fit my skill set,” Gilbert said. “It’s my dream job, and it came through.”
Gilbert says her toughest initial challenge will be overcoming her role as the outsider. She knows the district and town are tight-knit, and used to promoting from within.
So Gilbert began establishing her roots in this Western Idaho community before her first day on the job.
She and her husband purchased a home in Payette, where she will make her primary residence.
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Then, with “1P” license plates on her car, Gilbert toured her new district. She spent the first day on the job with the maintenance director Alvin Hill, touring the facilities, finding out what it takes to run each building and learning the district’s history. She stopped in to meet building administrators, trustees and new colleagues. Gilbert said her focus for now is to listen more than she speaks and to build relationships, noting that she has been struck by everyone’s pride in their community and facilities.
“I’m new woman in town — the previous superintendent, Dr. King, had been in the position for 13 years and come up through the schools,” Gilbert said. “Being an outsider, it’s important getting past some of those preconceived notions of who I am and some of the rumors.”
Gilbert’s background is in instruction and student achievement. She served as a building administrator in Middleton for 15 years, and has also worked with gifted and talented students.
“My strengths as a leader come in the areas of curriculum and assessment, understanding alignment and the need for formative assessment and how to look at data to guide decisions,” she said.
But Gilbert is quick to point out she’s not looking to use data to punish students.
“I don’t want to blame the student,” Gilbert said. “When you look at the data, if the student is not learning, where is the problem? Is it in curriculum? Is it instruction?”
Aaron Mitchell, a longtime colleague of Gilbert’s who recently retired from the Middleton School District, said Gilbert is a natural choice to lead a district of her own.
“I’m expecting great things from Payette, because they’ve gained a great leader,” Mitchell said. “She was a phenomenal principal and great at her job as director of student achievement.”
Although she is already well-versed in Idaho education laws and budget issues, Gilbert acknowledges there will be a learning curve. With about 1,500 students, Payette’s enrollment is half the size of Middleton’s. But there is more poverty in Payette, where all schools qualify for Title 1 programs with federal assistance.
After her initial settling in period, part of Gilbert’s vision is to bring together separate administrative teams to develop a more cohesive approach to learning and leadership.
Gilbert is a graduate of Northwest Nazarene University, where she earned her education specialist degree. In her free time, she participates in two book clubs, enjoys target shooting, patronizes local theater productions and loves to water ski.
“Robin is extremely driven personally and professionally,” Mitchell said. “As long as I’ve known her, she’s been a runner and competitive water skier and pushed herself as far she can go, both personally and professionally.”
Get to know Robin Gilbert
Click here to watch Idaho EdNews’ 2016 profile of Gilbert and learn about her extreme passion for water skiing.