Irish leaving as Birnamwood school principal

Administrator only departing because new job is much closer to home
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Two years as principal has provided Cole Irish with plenty of experience as an administrator, but now he’s stepping down at the end of June to pursue a principal position closer to home.

Irish has been the principal at Birnamwood Elementary-Middle School since 2022, but in that time he has been commuting from Plover, which takes up to an hour to drive each direction daily. He was recently hired to take on an elementary school position with the Stevens Point Area School District, a position much closer to home and to his family.

“I love Birnamwood, and I love all the people I work with — the teachers, the community, the students, everything,” Irish said. “I wish I could stay, but I live in Plover and it’s roughly 50 minutes to an hour one-way. I have a young kid now, and I want to be closer to my family and make sure I have more time at home. That’s really the only reason I’m leaving.”

BEMS was Irish’s first administrative position after only 3½ years as a teacher in Rosholt, and he said he couldn’t imagine a better place to learn the ins and outs of running a school. Even though BEMS is an island unto itself in comparison with the other two schools in the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District, Irish feels he’s had support from the other administrators.

“There’s just been so much growth with myself, obviously, since my first year as an administrator,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re trying to figure out your job and how to operate. It’s been good to have a group of teachers and also Garrett (Rogowski), the superintendent and all the administrative team to come in and help you build up a school that has one goal in mind, and that’s the success of our students.”

Irish added that having an amazing teaching staff made his job much easier, and it’s reflected in the school report card the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction puts out each year. In 2023, BEMS was named as a four-star school, which means the school is exceeding the state’s expectations in terms of providing a quality education.

“There are staff here that helped me lead and be the best version of myself,” Irish said.

With just a little over 300 students at BEMS from 4-year-old kindergarten to eighth grade, it’s been easy for Irish to get to know the students one-on-one.

“I try to get into the classrooms each day and say hi to them and see what they’re working on,” Irish said. “We’re just doing a lot of cool things.”

One of the things the school will be doing that Irish will be missing out on includes working with a three-dimensional printer to make items.

“This makes for some more hands-on activities for the students, maybe some robotics and things like that,” Irish said. “One of the big things we’re trying to do is get some more hands-on learning and using STEM technology. The students are really liking that stuff.”

Word has gotten around to students about Irish’s departure, and they’ve been letting the principal know how they feel.

“It’s tough to see them come up and say, ‘Aw, you’re leaving next year,’” Irish said. “It’s really hard to leave, for sure.”

June 30 is Irish’s last official day with Birnamwood, and then he will be starting at McDill Elementary School, which is a school for 4-year-old kindergarten through sixth grade. He said its student population count is similar to BEMS.

“I’m super excited,” Irish said. “It’s a couple of minutes from my house. It’ll save a lot of time. I’m really looking forward to starting the next school year with a new staff and new students.”

The last two years have helped Irish gain the experience necessary to take on the challenges at McDill.

“I just have so much more confidence from my first year to now,” Irish said. “You just learn how to work with the teachers you have in your building and how to communicate with all of our different students. I could also call anyone with the admin team and bounce my ideas off of them. I know it’s only two years, but gaining that experience and knowing how to handle certain situations when they arise is awesome. I feel that I’m able to handle things more swiftly and efficiently now.”