The Perry Community School District Board of Education will hold a special open meeting next week to finalize the details after announcing Thursday evening their choice of Clark Wicks, current Orient-Macksburg part-time superintendent and former longtime Perry Elementary School Principal, as the new superintendent of the Perry Community School District.
Wicks will replace the retiring Lynn Ubben, who has served as Perry Superintendent since the 2009-2010 school year.
The school board conducted a final round of separate interviews Thursday with Wicks and current Perry Middle School Principal Shaun Kruger in a closed session at the Security Bank Building at 6 p.m. The board — which deadlocked between the duo after a four-hour closed session April 3 — deliberated for an hour before entering briefly into open session in the Clarion Room to officially announce their choice.
“This was not an easy decision,” School Board President Kyle Baxter said, “not when you have two candidates like these two, who were so clearly prepared to do the job. I know we want to thank Shaun. He will continue as middle school principal, and I hope we can keep him.”
An original slate of 18 applicants was narrowed by the board to six, who were interviewed by four hiring committees composed of administrators, directors, teachers, parents and community members and the school board.
That led to the April 3 meeting, with the six reduced to Kruger and Wicks, with little apparently separating the two in the minds of board members.
“We were blessed to have so many highly qualified candidates, and I think that speaks well for our schools, our staff and our community,” Director Linda Andorf said. “When we got down to the final two, we knew there was no way to go wrong.”
Baxter said the drawn-out hiring process — something new to the board — had been a unifying experience, despite the initial deadlock.
“I think this whole thing has really brought us together as a board,” he said. “I believe this will make us even more effective in the future.”
Andorf said she was aware that, along with herself, the other board members (Vice President Jim Lutmer and Directors Kenia Alarcon and Marjean Gries) had been approached repeatedly by the public.
“As a board I know we appreciate the very many calls, comments and suggestions we have all received from the community,” she said. “It says something good about your community when so many people feel invested in their schools and in the decision we had to make.”
Wicks thanked the board for the opportunity. He noted he had been a Bluejay for the past 28 years (he became Perry Elementary Principal in 1989) and “will always be a Bluejay.”
Returning to the Perry Community School District was an easy decision, he said.
“Our roots are deep here in Perry, and that was definitely a factor,” Wicks said. “I love Perry. My kids love Perry, and my wife loves Perry, so that was a big factor in coming back here.”
“I had four great years in Orient-Macksburg and have worked with some great people,” he said. “We have done some tremendous things with their board and in their communities, and I have valued my time there.”
Wicks said he believed his familiarity with the district and his 38 years in education were clear positives for the board.
“I told them that when I semi-retired a few years ago, I knew at that point I was going to increase my value, and that to do so I needed to get experience (at the supervisory level),” he said. “I think the board felt that was a positive factor.”
Any new superintendent needs to build a solid network of interactions with those he will be dealing with, he said.
“The first thing is relationships,” Wicks said. “In the five school districts I have been in, I have been privileged to work with some really great people and have built many strong and synergistic relationships.”
“You have to build trusting, transparent relationships where people feel excited about the new leader, they feel excited about the school and they feel confident about the school,” he said. “I am convinced that with good, synergistic relationships we can have teachers that are calm, confident and excited to be in the classroom, and therefore the kids are going to be excited.”
The new superintendent did not shy away from noting that, as in any district, there are always going to be areas of difficulty.
“The thing about relationships is that it doesn’t matter how good they are — or how good your instruction is — if the finances are not in order,” Wicks said. “Whatever the challenges, we will turn them into an opportunity. There isn’t anything that is going to be too big for us to take on.”