Over the years, I’ve been a superintendent in various Wisconsin school districts, an assistant state superintendent, and a CESA director. I’ve also worked as a placement consultant, helping school districts find superintendents, which is how I came to know Merrill.
Earlier this week, the board announced that Walter Leipart, the current superintendent of the Phillips School District, will take over for me permanently.
Wally is outstanding at his job and I am very proud to have worked with the board to find him. I am sure that the things that have made me so happy as superintendent here will also appeal to him.
In my capacity as a consultant, it is my job to offer new superintendents advice about how to transition into new districts. While Wally won’t start in Merrill until July, I feel it will help community members if I share some advice with them on how they might get used to a new superintendent.
First, it is important to note that every district is in transition. These are challenging times for Wisconsin school districts, and common methods of schooling are changing to meet the needs of a new generation. It is important to understand that change is difficult, and to plan accordingly.
Secondly, in these times of great change in education, it is important to remember the core that makes MAPS a terrific school district. The community’s support of its schools, its commitment to education, the progressive nature of the schools, and the respect that parents and the broader community have for teachers and staff are things that should never change.
Thirdly, try to focus on what unites you rather than what divides you. I have been around long enough to know that there is a need to focus on the big picture in every community. During these times of great change, and especially in a community with a new superintendent, there is a need to resist getting bogged down in petty politics.
I will end as I often do, by reminding you what a great school district you have in Merrill, and by thanking you for the opportunity to be a part of it, even if only for a year.