By Woodrow Polston
During a closed session meeting on Feb. 16, the Van-Far R-I Board of Education unanimously voted to hire Dr. Natalie Gibson as the next junior and senior high school Principal for the 2023-2024 school year. Gibson, who is a graduate of Van-Far High, is currently in her 16th year of administration, with 21 years in education, serving as an Elementary Principal with the Ralls County R-II Schools. Gibson holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Hannibal LaGrange University, a Master’s degree in K-8 Administration from William Woods University and an Education Doctorate from Missouri Baptist University in Educational Leadership. Gibson said that she is looking forward to opening greater opportunities to the students.
“I feel beyond blessed to be returning to the Van-Far community. There are wonderful things happening at Van-Far and I look forward to partnering with the school and communities to bring even greater opportunities to our students. Our kids deserve to be loved and valued, and I look forward to leading the charge, while building a school community our students, staff, and patrons can be proud of,” said Gibson.
Van-Far School Board President Justin Hopke said that Van-Far faculty members are looking forward to working with her.
“The District is very excited about Dr. Gibson becoming the next principal of Van-Far High,” said Hopke. “We have confidence in her ability to help drive the mission and vision of the district forward. Her knowledge of our district and community, as an alumni and parent, will serve her well in providing the best for our students and give them the stabilizing element they need to be successful, while working to empower and educate all students.” He added.
The Van-Far R-I School District offers a one year contract to candidates for the position of high school principal. Blaise Stuedle, who was awarded the 2022-2023 contract, did not seek to renew his contract due to plans that he and his family have to move out of the district later this year. He said that he was grateful for his time in Vandalia.
“We are truly grateful for the past six years and hope to keep in touch with many of the great friends that we have made,” said Stuedle. “There came a time in our family’s lives that we had to make the decision to move back closer to our families after spending six years (five as an ag teacher and one as the principal) in the Van-Far community. My family and I will always be thankful for the time that we got to spend in the Vandalia community and hope that we have left a positive impact on the school district.” he added.
Van-Far Superintendent John Fortney said that he is glad to welcome someone who is already committed to the community.
“I couldn’t be more excited for Dr. Gibson to become part of the Tribe as our next Principal,” said Fortney. “Her love of the district and commitment to the success of all Van-Far students was evident in her interviews and I look forward to supporting her work in improving student outcomes. We have made tremendous progress in the last couple of years and Dr. Gibson is going to keep that momentum going.” he added.
Gibson is married to Lucas Gibson and together they have two children, Gage and Zoe.