Sunday, April 20, 2014

Board’s choice for super gig thrilled by offer

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Staff Writer | 5/15/2013

If Jeanne Stroh could walk on air, the new superintendent of Ottawa schools would have put that talent on display Monday night.

Near the end of an hour-long executive session Monday, school board members called Stroh to offer her the job. Stroh accepted, though some details, like compensation, were still being worked out, Susan Ward, school board president, said. The board came back into open session and voted 7-0 to hire Stroh to be the district’s top administrator.

If Jeanne Stroh could walk on air, the new superintendent of Ottawa schools would have put that talent on display Monday night.

Near the end of an hour-long executive session Monday, school board members called Stroh to offer her the job. Stroh accepted, though some details, like compensation, were still being worked out, Susan Ward, school board president, said. The board came back into open session and voted 7-0 to hire Stroh to be the district’s top administrator.

“When I got the call Monday night, I was on Cloud Nine,” Stroh, assistant superintendent of Hutchinson schools, said. “I was so thrilled and honored.”

Stroh, 53, who has a doctorate of education and a master’s degree in education from Kansas State University, will succeed Dean Katt, who resigned March 1. She beat out finalists Brian Kraus, Ottawa’s interim superintendent, and Don Haack, superintendent of the Spooner Area School District in Spooner, Wis.

“We had three excellent candidates, and it was a tough decision,” Ward said. “Brian Kraus has done an excellent job — we just decided Dr. Stroh would be the best fit for our district right now.”

Ward said Kraus would remain with the district as assistant superintendent. Kraus, who has been assistant superintendent of human resources for Ottawa schools since July 2008, took over as interim superintendent when Katt resigned.

After the meeting Monday night, Kraus said the board did what its members thought was best for the district.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Kraus said. “I thought I had done a good job the last couple of months [as interim superintendent], and I was looking forward to continuing in the superintendent’s role. But that’s the board’s decision, and they did what they thought was best for the district.”

Stroh’s first day on the job — July 1 — is scheduled to coincide with the start of the new 2013-2014 school year, Ward said.

Between now and then, Stroh said, she would be doing plenty of homework on the Ottawa school district.

“I’ll be spending weekends and evenings reviewing curriculum, policies, negotiated agreements and other documents,” she said. “I’m also planning to make some trips to Ottawa get to know the staff and community better.”

Stroh has 15 years of experience as an administrator, 11 of which were as principal of Central Elementary School in the Wamego school district. She spent three years as director of elementary education for Hutchinson schools before becoming the district’s assistant superintendent for student learning in 2012.

She has extensive experience as a K-12 curriculum supervisor.

Although she thinks the Ottawa school district needs a full-time curriculum director, Stroh said, she plans to assume that role next year, supervising curriculum and instruction.

“Resources are a huge concern for most school districts right now,” Stroh said, “but I would like to look at hiring a full-time curriculum director in the future. Curriculum is so important. It’s the heart of what we do.”

Graduating in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development from Northern Arizona University, Stroh said she spent 16 years as a teacher before her first administrative post with the Wamego school district.  

“She brings a lot of curriculum experience and really wants to be in the community,” Dennis George, school board member, said. “I think she will come in and do a fine job.”

Stroh’s experience as a curriculum supervisor, administrator and good communicator helped separate her from the other candidates.

As assistant superintendent in Hutchinson, Stroh said during her daylong interview April 29 in Ottawa that she helped lead her school district’s conversion to Common Core last year. Stroh, who also has served as her district’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support coordinator, said her experience with implementing Common Core would prove beneficial in helping guide Ottawa’s transition to Common Core.

Stroh also listed good communication skills as one of her strengths and said she keeps in regular touch with state legislators.

“With the state being a large source of our funding, it’s important that our state legislators know and understand what we do,” she said.

Stroh said she was impressed with the Ottawa community when she came for her interview and tour April 29.

“I was a little nervous at first, but I was just so impressed with the staff, teachers and parents I met with that day, and I took a tour with the mayor and economic development director and was impressed with their work and what they are doing with the schools,” Stroh said. “I felt very comfortable, and I think the work everyone is doing is in line with my vision of what needs to be done. I thought, ‘Boy, that would be just the perfect place.’ So I’m so excited to have this opportunity.”

In addition to serving as the Hutchinson school district’s assistant superintendent, Stroh has been active in the community.

She is co-chair of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Reno County Board for 2012-2013 and a Big Sister to two Littles, according to her resume. She also has been on the Reno County Keep Kids Fit Board, Reno County Early Childhood Council, Reno County Social Emotional Excellence for Kids Board, Reno County Head Start Policy Council, McPherson College Advisory Board, United Way community volunteer and Girl Scout leader.

Stroh, who has received training from Harvard University’s National Institute for Urban School Leaders, is a member of the Harvard Principal’s Center, as well as a member of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, American Association of School Administrators and International Reading Association.

She has won several awards, including the Alfred P. Wilson Outstanding Future Leader in Education Award from K-State.

Stroh said she is eager to get started in her new role at Ottawa.

“I feel just so honored to be named to the position, and I look forward to working with everybody,” Stroh said. “I know there will be challenges, but nothing we cannot overcome if we all work together.”

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