Sunday, November 23, 2014

Superintendent candidate says he has ‘proven track record’

By ABBY CROSTHWAIT, Herald Staff Writer | 5/6/2013

With more than a decade of experience, Don Haack said he has the tools to set the Ottawa school district on a long-term path for success.

“I’ve got a pretty good proven track record of communicating and listening and of long-range planning,” Haack, one of three Ottawa school superintendent candidates, said Monday afternoon in a meeting with the media. “If you can name a situation, I’ve probably seen it, been in it and worked through it.”

With more than a decade of experience, Don Haack said he has the tools to set the Ottawa school district on a long-term path for success.

“I’ve got a pretty good proven track record of communicating and listening and of long-range planning,” Haack, one of three Ottawa school superintendent candidates, said Monday afternoon in a meeting with the media. “If you can name a situation, I’ve probably seen it, been in it and worked through it.”

Haack, now the superintendent at the Spooner Area School District, Spooner, Wis., has been in a top administrative position for 13 years, he said. Haack received his bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematics from the University of Kansas, as well his master’s and educational doctorate degrees, both in educational leadership. He started out as a mathematics teacher at Prairie View High School, La Cygne, in 1983, then eventually worked his way up to assistant principal at Piper High School, Kansas City, then to principal.

Agreeing with the school district’s two other finalist candidates on the need for curriculum help, Haack said he thinks such focus important, but it wouldn’t be his first order of business. Instead, he said, he would begin by crafting and implementing a long-range plan for Ottawa’s schools.

“I think there needs to be a long-range, community-input, community-based, long-range plan for the school district,” he said. “Where [the community] sees itself going in the future. ...If there is a long-range plan, it’s not well communicated and there’s not a lot of buy-in.”

Haack said he thinks the long-range plan and the need for a curriculum director go hand-in-hand.

“In the long-term, that type of person needs to facilitate the long-range changes in the curriculum as we introduce more and more technology into the curriculum,” he said. “ ... So it’s not just a one shot, bring somebody in to help us out for a little while then go away deal. It needs to be a long-term thing because the curriculum needs to be vital and changing. And as students needs change, we need to keep up with it.”

The possibility of a one-to-one initiative is a good idea if the proper steps are taken to ensure correct implementation, he said, adding that the benefits of the initiative would be visible.

“If a one-to-one initiative is implemented properly, it can be a really good thing for a school district,” he said. “It can improve writing scores and science scores. Studies show it can increase English language arts. But the focus can’t be on the device, it has to be on learning.”

If chosen, Haack said, it’s not just about what he wants, but what the community envisions and believes should be taking place in the school district.

“I like my people and our community to know what’s going on and so everything’s open,” he said. “The budget is not my budget and it’s not the school district’s budget. It’s the community’s money and they should see the budget. Same with curriculum. It’s our curriculum.”

From talking with teachers and members of the community, he said he doesn’t think members of the community know what the vision is for the school district and that void of information needs to be addressed.

“ ... We can makes guesses about what the community wants for our schools, but those aren’t accurate. I think we need input,” he said. “The feedback I’ve gotten today from a few members and parents is that they don’t really know what the vision is for the district. We’ve got five- to 10-year goals, but they don’t appear to be well communicated and the plans individually don’t appear to be well-formulated.”

Getting to know the district and the members better would be major goals before making changes, Haack said. Coming in with an entirely new game plan wouldn’t necessarily help the district.

“Before making major changes, you have to get to know the culture of a school district, or any organization, because some things are the way they are for a reason,” he said. “I would recommend going with a strategic plan fairly quickly, but that shouldn’t be a ‘Don’ change, that should be something the district wants to do.”

Touting communication and listening as his strongest attributes, Haack said it takes team work to come up with ideas and solutions.

“It’s really about how you treat people and how you work with people,” he said. “ ... But if you can explain how you’re doing, what you’re doing and why you’re doing things and work together to come up with a great solution. That’s the way to work through problems.”

Jeanne Stroh, Hutchinson, and Brian Kraus, interim Ottawa superintendent, also are candidates for the district’s top position. Dean Katt resigned as Ottawa’s superintendent March 1. School board members are expected to pick Katt’s successor later this month.

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