Fort Calhoun High School Principal Jerry Green said he's known since third grade he wanted to be a teacher.
"Everything I've ever done from that time forward has geared myself toward teaching," he said. "Then somehow I fell into administration. I do everyday what I love to do."
The Fort Calhoun Community Schools Board of Education announced Friday that Green will be the next superintendent of the district after current Supt. Don Johnson retires in June.
Green has been the high school principal for 10 years, and has served as a teacher, coach and athletic director for FCCS since 1994. The school board will ratify his superintendent contract at an upcoming school board meeting, and he will officially become superintendent July 1.
Before the board announced its superintendent decision, it held six interviews for the position Wednesday and Thursday. Dr. Chad Dumas, Dr. Logan Lightfoot and Nick Wemhoff interviewed Wednesday, while Green, Angela Simpson and Drew Wagner interviewed Thursday.
Each candidate spent the day of their interview visiting with staff, touring the community and touring school facilities before meeting with the board.
The candidates were asked to begin their interviews with a presentation on how they would transition into the district as superintendent. An overview of each candidate's presentation is below. Wednesday's interviews were featured with more information in the Feb. 14 Enterprise.
Green: 'Share your passion'
Green told school board members near the start of his interview that he wants to share his passion for education with those around him.
"Share your passion. Do what you love, love what you do," he said. "That concept, that's not just mine, it needs to be shared, it needs to be incorporated with our staff, with our teachers, with our students."
Green said passion and empowering people within the district will have a positive ripple effect throughout FCCS.
"If I want to be any type of positive leader, you've got to empower your people," he said. "I don't want to micromanage, but I will, if I have to. I empower my people … You put the best people in the seats, let them do their job, empower them, support them, develop them, you know what you get? Fort Calhoun Community Schools the way it is right now."
Green said his transition to superintendency will follow three phases.
Part of the first phase, Green said, will be meeting with Johnson until his retirement to get a fuller understanding of current projects. He said he will also meet with FCCS Business Manager David Genoways to gain a better understanding of the school budget on a district rather than a building level and the district's human resources side of business.
"I think one of the misnomers is that Dave is just our budget guy," Green said. "But he does our human resources, and there's a lot to that."
In the second phase, Green said he would meet with district leadership groups, such as the safety team, and review plans of action for those groups. He said he would also meet with building principals, Special Education Director Ashley Dougherty, maintenance teams, custodial teams and more to set expectations.
"All of these facets that make our system work as well as it works," Green said.
In phase three, Green said he would meet with City of Fort Calhoun officials, business leaders, churches and other community organizations to develop mutually beneficial relationships. He also said the district should focus on finishing its building projects before stepping back to analyze what is next for FCCS in the coming years.
"This is my life, this is my career," Green said. "I come to work with a sledgehammer and a lunch pale. I don't know how to do things any other way...That goes back to my dad: You get up everyday, you go to work, you do your job and you do it well."
Simpson: Long-term planning with good decisions
Angela Simpson, currently superintendent of Loup City Public Schools, said during her interview there are no accidents, only a failure to plan.
"Quality is not an accident, it's a series of really good decisions that have been made over time and you continue to follow those decisions … and evaluate those decisions," she said.
Simpson said her transition plan would be focused on key aspects of FCCS' plan and vision including focusing on learning, engagement, building character, having courage and being inspiring.
Simpson said she would spend the initial part of her transition visiting the district and the Fort Calhoun community. She said she would meet with people such as community members or board members to understand what's important to FCCS and what some goals are.
“When I went to Loup City, every third week I made at least a half day or a full day visit to the district," she said. "The point there was just to be seen and let people ask me questions...The goal is that I do not get here July 1 and don't understand what you're asking of me...It's not just the day you show up, it's the day you start."
After her initial visits, Simpson said she would meet with teachers and staff at FCCS to understand concerns, hopes for the district and establish open lines of communication. By October, Simpson said she would meet with the school board to talk about things she's learned, what she wants to try and what things should continue while relaying a commitment to students and learning.
“The biggest part of phase 3 is building that team of professionals," she said. "They very much have a team in existence. Your teachers are very cohesive. So, how can I be part of their team and bring the things to them so they can be successful.”
Simpson said she has experience with building budgets as a superintendent and that she would want to ensure FCCS has a solid five- to-10 year plan to continue its current success. Day-to-day, she said, she would want to delegate decisions and leadership opportunities to teachers and staff in the district.
"If I've hired quality people and there's quality people here," success can happen, she said.
Wagner: Collaborate, create positive relationships
Fort Calhoun Elementary Principal Drew Wagner said his transition plan would focus on collaboration to create positive relationships that promote professional development and ensure student achievement.
"Before you can lead, you need to know yourself," he said, adding he is a servant leader. "In that collaborative process, you create those clear goals, you create those clear norms. How do we want to work as a team? When I look at the five stages of team development — I don't know how many times we've gone through that at the elementary, but we've become better every time."
Wagner said he would want to hold listening and learning sessions to communicate with community members, teachers and staff, conversations which could help develop a collaborative action plan and goals for the district.
"The best we can give people is being present," he said. "We're human beings...no one's better than each other."
Wagner said the collaborative listening process could help discover improvement areas and areas for continued growth, such as FCCS' mental health curriculum.
"How many districts are doing that? Not many," he said. "We truly are Pioneers in this business of education."
Wagner said once how people are going to work together and an action plan with short- and long-term goals is established, he would want to delegate leadership responsibility to teachers, staff and others in the district.
"Each person has a role … You have to communicate that," he said. "We're all leaders in a manner, at the right time. Within their classrooms, my expectation is they are the leader of that classroom."
Wagner also said it is important to visible to students and that he would learn more about the district's budget process outside of a building level from Genoways. He also said it would be important to continue positive relationships with administrators for any mending that may need to happen once a new superintendent was selected.
"I see what we're doing (at FCCS). Top-notch stuff," Wagner said. "I don't want to go anywhere else."
Dumas: Inquire and collaborate
Dumas, currently the executive director of elementary education at Ames (Iowa) Community Schools, said inquiring and collaborating with others come to mind when he thinks about transitioning into FCCS. He said inquiring and collaborating comes through people, processes and planning.
"When I think about the people of the organization, that's who we are," Dumas said. "Education, I think, is a people business. Trust is our currency, so we're going to get to know each other."
Dumas said he wants to get to know board members, staff, students and people in the community.
Once relationships are built, Dumas said he and people in the district can begin to discuss the way things are done, or processes.
"I heard someone say once, 'Before you take down a fence, you better know why it was put,'" Dumas said. "That's who I am as a collaborator, as an inquirer, why do we do things, why do we do them the way that we do."
Dumas said getting to know people and processes leads to planning, and he likes to plan five years ahead at a time.
"Any plan that we put in place will be done collaboratively after an inquiry-based process to understand who are we and where do we want to go," he said.
Lightfoot: Develop relationships, collaborate
Lightfoot, currently superintendent at Anselmo-Merna Public Schools, said he has a plan for the first 100 days of being FCCS superintendent to begin developing collaborative, trusting relationships with students, staff, board members, administration and the community.
"Trust and collaboration don't happen overnight, that's a process," Lightfoot said. "Going through and being patient and developing a quality program takes that same process."
Lightfoot said collaborating and developing relationships helps his goal of being transparent when discussing policies, financial goals and other aspects of education in the district.
"That means sometimes having good conversations, sometimes having difficult ones, but at the end of the day we're always going to be making decisions in the best interests of our kids," Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said FCCS should ensure it continues responsible growth. At the end of his interview, he provided board members a poem which discussed a boy going through a ”pretty good” school. Lightfoot said FCCS is excellent, but the poem is a call to avoid complacency.
"One of the hardest things we can do is taking that next step and see what we can do even better," he said.
Wemhoff: Value everyone
Nick Wemhoff, FCCS athletic director and assistant principal, said his goals to transition into the superintendent position surround finance, growth, short- and long-range plans and establishing relationships.
"I have great relationships," he said. "Now I'm moving to a new role … because it's a different place, I will have to continue working on those relationships, so I can continue to build those in a positive way."
Wemhoff said he would want to meet with board members to discuss philosophies and goals. He said he would want to create relationships that allow the school board, administration, teachers and staff to operate on a "unified front." He said his role as superintendent would be to support administration in supporting teachers and staff.
"We have a great administrative team, there's in no doubt in my mind," he said.
Wemhoff said he has a good knowledge of the district's budget process, and the district should continue to consider how option-enrollment affects school finance and decisions. Open communication, he said, is important for everyone to discuss concerns, positives and improvements for FCCS.
"If you go in my office, a quote from Doug Christensen, up on the very top it says, 'The greatest gift I can give someone is space for their voice to be heard.' I believe in that completely," Wemhoff said. "Every job is important. Every individual matters. Every relationship matters. Everybody's valued."