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Rossman announces retirement as HSA principal

by EMILY BONSANT
Staff Writer | February 22, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Melinda Rossman, Homeschool Academy principal, is retiring and looking forward to getting back outside.

When Rossman first moved to the Sandpoint area in 2016, she had hoped to retire, do odd jobs here and there and maybe open a dog kennel.

However, she happened to hear of an announcement by Lake Pend Oreille School District officials about creating a new school, one aimed at area home school students. Under former Superintendent Sean Woodward, Rossman was hired to conduct an experimental school for supplementary courses for such students.

“Creating a school was one of my dreams,” Rossman said.

She was interested in the opportunity to provide supplementary education to local homeschooled students. This is one of the first jobs of its kind in not only the district but in the state, she said.

Rossman was tasked with finding parents interested in participating in the new school. She interviewed over a dozen parents and found they wanted the school to focus on art, science and socialization options for their students which they may not otherwise have access to through homeschooling.

In 2016, the first year of the school, 16 students started the school year with 40 students finishing. The second year started with 40 students and finished the year doubled in attendance at 80 students. The Homeschool Academey’s student population grew quickly, so much so that they outgrew their building were placed in the building near the high school and middle school.

Now there are 90 to 110 students depending on the season. Some families travel and others hunker down for the winter, said Rossman.

Rossman has a master’s degree in education and a master’s in administration leadership. From there she got her principal’s license. She has 21 years of experience teaching in education and 25 years as a ski coach, pro skier and working for the U.S Forestry Service office.

“I worked 25 years outside and 21 years inside. I am ready to be back outside,” she said. “I want to get out and get my hands in the dirt and spend time skiing, riding my mountain bike and trading food with the community.”

For Rossman, teaching at the Homeschool Academy was different from other teaching experiences, as she had to juggle more responsibilities and figure out how the school would function.

As principal and lead teacher she would train staff how to write their own curriculum. Courses and curriculum would be decided on by students and parents throughout the year as they decide what they wanted to learn. Rossman and staff work a curriculum around that.

Rossman is not sure what the future may hold, but she is looking forward to the next chapter in her life. She doesn’t think she’ll be that far away from the Homeschool Academy this fall as she helps facilitate her transition into retirement.

The Tilfords discovered the Homeschool Academy in its first year of operation and have attended one or two days a week for six years now.

“Melinda Rossman has created a program that is unique and valuable. We love homeschooling, and HSA is the best supplement to homeschooling I could imagine,” Cherilynn Tilford said. “Not only does my daughter get to learn exciting things, like Railroad History, Russian, and Botany, to name very few,, but she gets to perform on stage at the Panida in a musical, build snow forts in the woods, hike local trails, and snowboard mid week with her friends.”

Rossman encourages, in fact insists on, parental involvement which allowed Cherilynn to share her skills as an art teacher at the school for several years, and have a say in what kind of classes are offered, Cherilynn Tilford said. Rossman brings a mixture of skills and experience that is going to be incredibly difficult to replace.

“Her passion for learning and creating an environment where children of all sorts can flourish is a gift. HSA was the only school in the district that allowed children to gather without covering their faces during the hysteria of last year, keeping the school environment free from fear and unscientific propaganda,” Tilford said. “Her strength of character, discernment, honesty, and creativity are qualities that I wish more educators and administrators displayed.”

"Melinda is someone that truly loves children,” Kayti Heuster, whose three children attend HSA. “She created an environment that supported their inherent value in the world and allowed them to develop uninhibited. Her contribution will be felt through generations, no doubt.”

“Melinda skillfully and faithfully stewarded our most prized treasures, our children, over the past six years,” said Wallace and Alyssa DeVall, parents of three HSA students. “She has invested more of herself into these students than what you would expect from an administrator — a relationship. Melinda sees in the children the potential world changers that they are and helps them to realize their value.”