All superintendents are standouts in some way, right? But how often does a superintendent do double-duty as elementary school principal and lead administrator? Give school tours to kids entering the school system, and to alums returning to town to see how things have changed? Teach driver's ed? Sunday School? Extreme multitaskers can threaten organizations with an under-budgeted, under-staffed appearance, but being everything to everyone is just how Superintendent of North Iowa Community Schools Larry Hill likes it. Part administrator and coach, part welcoming committee and an educator, Hill is often the first face kids see at the start of their education and the last one to whom they bid adieu before heading to the real world.
Faith and family: The staff at Hill's district rallied around him during a near-fatal accident his youngest daughter, Stephanie, suffered six years ago.
Preaching turned to practice: "I had for years spoken to the fact that our district needed to be concerned about family first. When Stephanie's accident took place, the faculty came to me and said, 'Practice what you preach, put your family first,' and that spoke volumes to me."
Bedside manner: After rushing to Minnesota to be by their daughter's side during what would turn into months of surgeries and recuperation, the Hills had not so much as a toothbrush. Hill's staff sent a care package filled with the necessities for a long time away from home: a notebook for recording doctors' advice, calling cards, quarters for parking, toothpaste and a Bible, among other items.
How he got both jobs: "I really didn't have an interest in remaining superintendent for very long," Hill says, but nine years after stepping in as superintendent, he's still happily juggling his principalship and superintendency.
Lunch duty: "Being superintendent requires so many out-of-district meetings" which takes him from his students, he says. To combat that, he eats lunch in the cafeteria. It's the only way to get any info about the school, he says. "Those little buggers really know what's happening!"
Classroom, once removed: Before becoming principal of North Iowa's elementary and high school, the soon-to-be-Dr. Hill was North Iowa's Drug Free Schools Coordinator where he coordinated school improvement programs for 24 districts in North Central Iowa. Why did he leave? "It had been six months since I'd worked with a child."
Source of pride: Hill says that some 20 years ago North Iowa Community Schools comprised four separate districts, and today there is just one. "Before the reorganization, all four were highly competitive. Now they're modeled into one unit," which he considers in hindsight as a great achievement ... but not one he reached in a vacuum. "I didn't do things alone, by the way. A whole team made it happen at a time when we didn't realize what we were doing."
Get thee to his poetry class: To spend time in the classroom, Hill reads poetry to the elementary kids. "Lots of little guys come from [broken homes], who maybe don't have strong male role models; I'm kind of a stocky build, goofy looking guy, [and] when you start reading poetry ..." he says, voice trailing, "it's a sight."
So happy together: Longevity is the name of the game among North Iowa's faculty: members average 21 years' experience and last year, five retired having spent their entire career in the same district. Says Hill: "They have the power to go other places and earn more money, but you have to consider the work environment."