I was born and raised in Dodge City, Kansas. I graduated from Dodge City High School in 1978 and attended college in my hometown at St. Mary of the Plains College. I graduated in 1982 with a B.A in History as well as an education degree. I started teaching in 1982 at Spearville High School in Spearville, Kansas. Spearville is a small community of approximately 1,000 people. I taught for eight years and decided to work on my degree in Educational Administration. I graduated from Fort Hays State University in 1989 with a M.S. degree in Educational Administration and started my career as an Assistant Principal at a private catholic high school in Salina. After one year as an assistant principal I accepted a position as High School Principal at Atwood High School, a small community of 2,000 people in northwest Kansas. After four years as high school principal in Atwood, I accepted a position of high school principal in Ulysses, Kansas, a community of 6,000 in southwest Kansas. I was in Ulysses for 16 years, from 1995 to 2011, culminating in the last eleven years as superintendent of schools. In 2011 I was offered the position of Superintendent of Schools in Salina, Kansas, a community of 48,000 and a student enrollment of 7,300 students. I have been in Salina the past six years before being offered the opportunity of being the superintendent of the Willow Springs school district. I have a total of 35 years of experience as an educator in Kansas, 17 of those years have been as a Superintendent of Schools.
What attracted you to Willow Springs Schools?
In my 35 years of experience in education in Kansas, 29 of those years have been in small communities and small school districts. After six very successful years in Salina, I would like to get back to a smaller school district. When I contacted some colleagues in Missouri if they knew of any openings, especially in smaller communities, Willow Springs was mentioned. I actually came out to Willow Springs on three consecutive weekends in April and May just to become more knowledgeable about the community. I was very impressed by what I observed, especially the friendliness of the people in which I came in contact. The Willow Springs school district has received distinction as a top-notch school district in Missouri, a district that places academics and student success at the forefront. I very much appreciate the opportunity to be part of that tradition of success.
What is your impression of the district so far, and how would it inform your leadership?
During my recent visits to Willow Springs I had the opportunity of visiting with both staff and community patrons. I found patrons extremely supportive and complimentary of the school district. Staff members were excited about what the school district offers students in terms of opportunities and delivery of quality instruction. As I researched the school district in preparation for my interview with the board of education, I came across a number of notable academic distinctions for the school district not the least of which is a 100% graduation rate. It is very clear that teachers, administrators and support staff take very seriously the academic and extra and co-curricular achievement of Willow Springs’ students.
Please talk about your communication style.
My communication style can be characterized as open and providing as much accessibility as possible. To that end, I spend much time being visible in all schools and classrooms as well as at school activities. I believe it is important that both staff have a personal relationship with the superintendent and that I know all staff by name. Likewise, it is important that students know the superintendent when he walks in the classroom or sees them at activities, even to the point that they feel comfortable going up and talking to him. I have an open door policy with both the community and staff, but also believe strongly in the chain of command and that issues that require resolution be directed back to the most immediate source whether that be the teacher or the building administrator. I have always prided myself on possessing quality communication skills and look forward to being that attribute to the Willow Springs school districts.
Regarding community patrons and business leaders, I like to spend as much time as possible visiting patrons at local venues, whether it is at their place of business, at civic organizations or a community or school district events and activities. I want to find out what patrons believe are the positive attributes of the Willow Springs school district and what are areas in which we can improve. I also adhere to a high degree of transparency with our community on school district initiatives and actions to the extent that transparency is possible.
I also work through committees when there is a proposed issue or program that needs to be brought before the board for consideration. It is essential that we build empowerment among staff to ensure support and sustainability for any program adopted by the board.
What are your goals in moving Willow Springs forward?
My top priority this first year, not to overstate it from the previous question, is to build relationships within the school district and the community. I am not interested in implementing wholesale changes until I have had the opportunity to visit directly with all key stakeholders. I will then work closely with the board to set a strategic vision for the school district based on that input. I have had some preliminary conversations with the board during the interview process, but it is essential that I communicate directly with the community to receive their input and to also connect with them about some of the key issues that the board is considering.
Secondly, I would like to spend the year evaluating the instructional programs of the Willow Springs school district and determine which ones are working well and which ones may need revisited. It is important that we look at financial resources that are available to the school district and that they are being budgeted as efficiently as possible, yet still yielding results. Again, this is with the direct input of teachers, administrators and support staff.