Incoming Crookston School District superintendent sees challenges to face and positives to build upon.
First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?
I am fortunate enough to be outnumbered by my four daughters: Naomi, Abby, Lydia, and Anna as well as my wife Rebekah. Family is incredibly important to me as there is no greater joy that I have then spending time with my wife and daughters. My wife is originally from Jamestown, North Dakota and I am originally from Sartell Mn. My wife and I met at Jamestown College and were married soon after graduation. My family and I love to spend time at the lake in the summer time where we enjoy skiing and tubing.
I accepted a High School History Teaching position out of college at Four Winds High School in Fort Totten ND and taught while I earned my Master's Degree in Educational Leadership at UND. We then moved to Timber Lake SD where I was the High School Principal/Middle School Principal before accepting my first Superintendent position at Pingree-Buchanan School District. During this time I worked to complete my Doctorate of Education with a focus on the Superintendent/District Office from the University of South Dakota. I had the privilege of being hired as the Superintendent at Underwood eight years ago and then four years later was fortunate to also be hired as the Superintendent at Henning School District where I have served since. This experience as a Superintendent in two schools helped me grow as a leader and helped shape the way that I go about my work both in school and in the community. Most recently, I had the great privilege of being hired by the Crookston School District. I truly love being a Superintendent and while not all days are good days, and some days are downright terrible, I can honestly say that I am thankful to be in a profession that I truly enjoy.
A lot of people in the education field will say that early on as they tried to decide on their life’s path, they felt a need to help shape the next generation, or felt a particular draw to education. Was that true for you as well? Please explain.
The reason that I am in education today is because of some very gifted and relational teachers who I greatly admired. One in particular, a PE Teacher who really demonstrated what great educators do, was particularly influential to my decision to become a teacher. There is an impact that great educators have on students that transcends the curriculum and impacts the very course of a student's life. I wanted to make this type of impact and therefore decided that education was the right fit for my future.
So assuming you felt a pull toward education and teaching, how does that translate at some point early in your career to aspirations of being an educational administrator? Do you think you can make more of a difference as a school principal or school district superintendent than a teacher in the classroom?
I have never thought that I can make more of a difference than the classroom teacher, however, my impact is felt differently than that of the classroom teacher's. I believe that great administrators are force multipliers. We best maximize our impact when we have poured ourselves into helping those around us grown and develop. My impact as a Principal was working with my staff to foster a growth mindset and putting in place the frameworks and resources to maintain this growth mindset. When I moved into the Superintendent role the focus became on developing the leadership of those around me so that they could lead well and in so doing help their staff have an impact on the students and parents that we serve.
You’ve only come and gone from Crookston a couple times since you were hired to become superintendent when Chris Bates retires. But you’ve probably formed some very early impressions of the school district and the community. Care to share any?
Everything that I know about Crookston has been based on individual conversations, things that I have read, and observations that I have made in a couple visits to the Crookston. What I can gather is that Crookston is a very inviting place and a place that has a great sense of community pride. I am very thankful to the many people that have reached out, a special thank you to the U of M Crookston for making us feel welcome! There is no getting around the fact that this is a big move for my family. We are all a little sad to leave behind two communities that mean so much to us and yet are very excited to begin our new adventure at Crookston.
Are there things that have stood out to you already as particular strengths of the school district, or things that the district can really hang its hat on?
When I asked the various groups about what they were proud of during the interview process, there were two things that I heard with regularity and that was "Community" and "the Staff". The more people that I met as I went though the interview process, the more that I became excited about this job. I think that the greatest strength and the greatest opportunity of the School District is the staff.
How about some things that have spurred you to say to yourself, “Boy, that’s a big problem. We’re really going to have to tackle that challenge head on, and right away”?
My focus moving into this year is to look, listen, build relationships, and work with the various stakeholders to develop a road map for next steps. The greatest mistake that I can make as a leader is to lead without vision. We need to know where we are going before we can start moving. Conversation around vision, direction, and metrics for progress are conversation that I suspect that the School Board will be having in the coming year.
You have four daughters, two of them twins, and all of them elementary school-aged or younger. First of all…wow. Secondly, what’s that like? How in the world can someone continue climbing the educational career ladder while putting in all the time that such work demands with all of that going on at home every day?
In two words: "my wife". My wife is such a great mother to the kids and has a great understanding that the superintendent position does not allow for a lot of free nights with activities, community meetings, and other demands. She has always been the rock for the kids and has always supported me as my career has advanced. Behind every good man there is a great wife.
Could you do an entire comedy routine, yes, likely full of cliches, about being a guy outnumbered by all of those females under one roof? Sometimes you probably just have to laugh, right?
I always thought that I wanted to have a son; however, I am not sure I would even know how to raise one now. I can't imagine life without my girls and have really come to understand that raising my daughters is probably the most fulfilling thing that I have ever done. I am particularly appreciative of the fact that I get to stop in from time to time and spy on them at school as part of my job. My story may change in a couple of years as my kids start moving into high school, but for now I really don't have anything to complain about.
Do you possess any quirky or unique talents, skills or habits that people outside of your inner circle are most likely unaware of? Care to share any?
I don't have any talents or skills. I do have habits that people often would not guess if you saw me during my work day would be that I really love to paintball and water ski. In both activities my maturity is diminished to around 14-18 years old, however, my body soon reminds me of my chronological age. I also like to run and am really excited about the Crookston Sports Center indoor track and the bike paths around town.
Describe where you think/hope you'll be in 10 years, or what you think/hope you'll be doing, personal life-wise and career-wise.
I hope to be a much better leader and superintendent in 10 years that I am now. I have grown a lot in the last ten years as a leader and hope to continue to develop and grow. Stagnation both personally and institutionally is the greatest threat to excellence. I hope to be in Crookston in 10 years as the realities of moving are hitting me right now and they are not fun. In 10 years, my oldest three would have graduated from high school, my youngest would be in 10th grade, and my wife and I would still be young. Right?
Please describe yourself in ten words or less…
Better than yesterday and not as good as tomorrow