Brian Pekarek will be USD 257’s new superintendent of schools.
Board members, meeting in special session, voted unanimously Wednesday evening to hire Pekarek, who is completing his second year as superintendent of the Clifton-Clyde USD 224 district.
“I’m excited about coming to Iola and to get started,” Pekarek, 36, told the Register later Wednesday evening. “We (he, wife Robyn and children Seth, 4, and Thad, 2) want to make Iola our home for many, many years.”
A visit to the district in March is in his plans, Pekarek said.
“I want to develop immediate rapport with the staff,” he said. “I’ll have two questions for teachers: What are positive things you are proud of? What can we work on to make the district better?
“Great things are going on in the district and I won’t change anything right off the bat,” Pekarek added. “I will have some ideas, but those will be worked in over time.”
Clifton-Clyde has been recognized for its academic excellence and Pekarek said programs that were successful there could be replicated in USD 257.
The Russell district just this week received permission from the federal government to use ACT tests instead of state assessments to determine students’ Adequate Yearly Progress for the No Child Left Behind program, Pekarek observed.
“The ACT translates better to college and careers and it may be something we’ll want to do in Iola,” he said.
Also, he will introduce the local staff to grant writing.
“We raised $280,000 in the last year,” to support Clifton-Clyde’s general operating budget of $2.5 million, Pekarek said. “I don’t know why we couldn’t raise $400,000 in Iola. When we taught our staff grant-writing skills, they responded. I think the Iola staff will as well.”
He noted that could compensate for much of the loss of state aid, $435,000, USD 257 anticipates in 2010-11.
When he was interviewed here on Feb. 4, Pekarek said he thought “academics should infiltrate into every aspect of a district” and that an academic program that “focuses on a higher level than state assessments is the way to reach excellence.”
Pekarek — he’ll be paid $95,000 his first year — will replace Dr. Craig Neuenswander, in his 12th year as USD 257 superintendent. Neuenswander will become director of finance for the Kansas Department of Education on July 1.
A GRADUATE of Abilene High School, Pekarek earned his bachelor’s degree at Fort Hays State University in 1997, has a master’s degree in counseling and is completing a doctorate at Kansas State University.
He taught social studies in Quinter and Lindsborg and then was a counselor at Basehor-Linwood High School and an elementary school in Haysville. He was a middle school principal in Emporia before becoming Clifton-Clyde superintendent in 2009.
Clifton-Clyde has 310 students, USD 257 has 1,330. The local operating budget is nearly five times that of Clifton-Clyde at a little over $12 million.
The numbers between the two are different, Pekarek said, but administrative chores, goals and concerns “are basically the same.”