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My tenure serving as the interim superintendent for the Highland Community School District is nearing an end. When I retired as the superintendent of schools for the Washington school district in 2015, I never envisioned a scenario where I would ever return to do the job again.
There was something that I found intriguing about Highland, and when the opportunity arose to help them out for a year, I followed up and visited with the Board of Education.
In some ways it felt like coming home, and I am glad that I did so.
What intrigued me the most about the Highland school district is that I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a smaller, rural school district that serves small communities.
I was superintendent for the Southeast Webster-Grand Community School District for 12 years prior to going to Washington. Southeast Webster-Grand was a district of around 600 students from seven different communities in Boone and Webster County.
Both of my daughters were graduates from Southeast Webster-Grand. The similarities between Highland and Southeast Webster-Grand are amazing to me.
I have been fortunate throughout my career that I have worked in great school districts with excellent teaching staffs and wonderful boards of education. This was true at Southeast Webster-Grand and at Washington.
Highland has been no exception to that.
My first and only experience with Highland prior to my move to Washington was being the softball coach at Southeast Webster-Grand and playing Highland at the state softball tournament in 2008.
I was unique in being a superintendent, softball and girls basketball coach while at Southeast Webster. I was fortunate to have coached two girls basketball teams to the state tournament over four years, including having Miss Iowa Basketball in 2008.
I had three state softball teams while coaching at Southeast Webster-Grand for 12 years, including getting to coach both of my daughters on state softball teams. I would certainly say that those were very memorable years for me.
One of my biggest concerns as a school superintendent is to see what is happening to small school districts in the state of Iowa. The state has now shrunk down to a little more than 300 school districts.
When I started as a superintendent, we were more than 600. Due to a lack of funding, school consolidation is happening at a rapid rate. The state has even stated in the past that they would like to see no school districts smaller than 700 students.
My former district went through two consolidations in 10 years and are now currently whole grade sharing with the Prairie Valley school district to become the Southeast Valley shared district.
These discussions were beginning just prior to my leaving and led to the closing of an elementary building in Boxholm, which was a very trying and difficult thing for the district. Once again, something that Highland has experienced as well.
I have enjoyed working in all sizes of districts and see the advantages and disadvantages of each. I like the work ethic of the kids and the values that are reinforced in the small district.
I see Highland and Southeast Webster-Grand as being almost identical in many ways. The staff and students are very close-knit and students are able to participate in a variety of activities. I’ve appreciated my short one-year term here and have enjoyed the staff, students, board and patrons that I have dealt with.
Thank you for the opportunity.