Superintendent McKittrick shares school district's vision plan

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News
Montevideo Schools Superintendent Wade McKittrick spoke at the Lion's Club meeting Monday mid-day, sharing information with the group on the district's goals for the future.

Montevideo Superintendent Wade McKittrick was asked to speak at the Montevideo Noon Lion’s Club meeting on Monday as a newly joined member, and also as a representative of the school district. McKittrick spoke on what the priorities of the district are currently, as well as what the district’s vision is for the future. McKittrick has previously been a member of the Lion’s Club during his time in Wabasso for ten years. He says that experience in witnessing the selflessness and service of Lion’s Club members previously made it an obvious choice of service organization to join upon his arrival in Montevideo after taking over the role of the school’s Superintendent and moving to town.  

McKittrick spoke about what types of feedback he has heard from the community, and what kinds of questions he has been asked since beginning his position in July. He said that when he was asked what his vision was coming into the district, that he replied, “It’s not important what my vision for the district is. What’s important is that the district has a vision and that we know what we want to accomplish. My job is to come in and really implement the plan that is in place and help the district carry out that plan. We spent a lot of time early on talking about what the vision of the district is and what it is that we want to accomplish.” With some direction decided upon, McKittrick says the school board worked together to create what is meant to be a one-year plan with three major goals outlined. “The very first one is to establish trust with our internal and external stakeholders,” he says. “We want to be known as a district that when we say something you just simply take it to the bank. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. We accomplish it. You all know that person that no matter what they say to you, you don’t question it. As a school district that’s what we want to be known to the community.”

The second major goal in the one-year plan is to work on establishing two-way beneficial partnerships in the community. “What are things that we can work with our community on? Our business community? Our faith community? Our service community? What can we work together on to have an impact on our community? If we work together, we can accomplish a lot of cool things and we can do it more efficiently and more quickly,” he said. The third goal is to raise student achievement. “We just walked through an interesting last year and a half. When you hear things about education and you hear politicians or administrators or school board members say well it was just an unprecedented situation, you’ll have to forgive us for the last year and a half… honestly I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter what the situation was. Our job isn’t to make excuses. Our job isn’t to worry about those other things that have happened. Our job is to make sure kids get what they need,” McKittrick said. “While COVID made it tough, it made it tough for everybody. That’s not what you will hear coming from my office. Test scores are being released. Nobody’s test scores are good this year. I’m not going to blame COVID for it. What we did didn’t work as good as we wanted it to. Our teachers did a phenomenal job of adjusting, but it just didn’t work as well as we wanted it to.  We are going to continue to move forward and we’re going to learn from the things that didn’t go well last year and we’re going to learn from the things that did go well because believe it or not there were things that went well that we wouldn’t have tried if we weren’t in a pandemic.”

To address questions of where the district is going in the long term, McKittrick says the school board has developed a long-term vision plan. “We are approaching the School District as we need it to be a great place for kids. It needs to be a safe place for kids. It needs to be a place that takes them from where they’re at and helps them so that by the time they graduate, they have a plan. It’s not just about math, reading, and science. It’s about taking experiences so that by the time they graduate they have an idea of where they’re going,” he said. McKittrick pointed to that many students graduate high school and enter college without a definite plan for what they want to do for a career, rather they base their entry into college on the idea that a four-year college is where they are supposed to go. “There’s been a significant swing in education in the past years in really promoting to kids that everyone needs to go to a four-year university, and quite frankly, I think that does a significant injustice to kids,” McKittrick said. “Four-year universities are not for every student. We want to prepare them to be able to go to the University if they choose, but also give them the experiences to navigate to a two-year, or the military or into the workforce if that’s where they want to be. They need some experiences to be able to make those decisions.”

McKittrick also discussed how the district is in a position to be a community builder, in providing the community with resources - those resources being the students. “What would happen to our community if 40 percent of our seniors each year stayed in Montevideo? Within a ten-year structure, if 40 percent of the graduating class either stayed in Montevideo or came back to Montevideo after they did their post-secondary education, what would that do for our community?” he asked. “If you did the math, that could move our population up to 7,000 to 7,500. That would attract more amenities, provide more tax base, more business, and more employees. If we’re going to do that, we need our business community to step forward and say this is how we can partner with the school, and what can the school do to help provide that workforce for the community.”

Since he started the position on July 2nd, McKittrick has been meeting with community members. “To date, we’ve had about 150 people one through the board room. We’ve been sitting down with these groups asking seven questions centering around what we are doing well as a district, what we are not doing well, and what our priorities should be in the future. And then we’ve been listening. Unless we’re hearing what our community wants, we can’t possibly meet your expectations,” McKittrick said. “We need to understand what it is that you want. We have warts as a school district, and we have great successes as a school district. We’re not going to hide any of it. We’re going to simply amplify the things that are really important  and we are going to expand on them and make them better, but we’re also going to acknowledge there are things we don’t do well and make plans to make them better.”

Addressing questions he frequently receives, McKittrick noted that the most popular question has been when the next bond referendum is coming up. “We don’t have any plans for facilities. We’re looking at this really from a few different perspectives. One is are there issues that we discussed during the last referendum that can be fixed without a building and the answer is yes. One of the issues has to do with the configuration of our district. We’re set up as an early childhood to kindergarten, first to third, then fourth to 7th and then 8th to 12th-grade building. We’re asking the questions - developmentally does that make sense, for education does that make sense. We’re holding our feet to the fire on it and the answer is that if it doesn’t make sense we commit to fixing it,” he says.

The second most asked about issue is the Fine Arts Center. The Fine Arts Center has not been in use for the last three years due to the state of the building and health concerns over mold and mildew inside of the building. McKittrick says he toured the facility with local contractors, making sure the district understood what was at stake with the facility if they were to try to repair it as opposed to tearing it down. “At best, we could be looking at adding another 10 years onto the life of the building based on the condition that it’s in. It doesn’t make sense to try to pump a couple of million dollars into a building that would likely have to come down in ten years. The Fine Arts Center is not going to come back. At some point in time it’s going to have to come down,” he said.