Newton superintendent Steve McDermott grew up in Greenfield, a 30-minute drive north of Creston on Iowa Highway 25 in Southwest Iowa. So, in many ways, when he becomes superintendent of the Creston Community School District on July 1, he will have come back home.
So, it's perhaps a little ironic that Creston's community motto is "Back to Home."
McDermott, who has served the Newton Community School District for the past 11 years, said he was looking forward to working more closely to the classroom setting in his new position. The Creston school district, which roughly half the size of the Newton district, should afford him that opportunity.
"Every school district has its pros and cons, but I'm really looking forward to the opportunities there," he said. This is definitely a bittersweet moment; we accomplished so much here in Newton, and not one thing was done by myself."
McDermott said the most gratifying accomplishment was a change in culture that occurred, refocusing attention on student learning. He said that process took teamwork and collaboration throughout the school district to accomplish.
"Problems were solved, challenges overcome and initiatives met because many people pulled together," he said. "The superintendent is just one person working in the school district; it takes many others working together to have success."
Other highlights of the past 11 years have been the county-wide Career Academy partnership with DMACC and improvements to all school facilities. He also pointed to the elementary school realignment in Newton as a highlight.
"We're three years into it now, and you can really see student achievement numbers are improving, which is great to see," he said. "The realigned elementary school structure has worked so well because the staff pulled together and rallied their efforts to make it work."
McDermott said "personal, family-related reasons" resulted in his looking for a return to Southwest Iowa. He discovered he was finalist for the Creston job after Monday night's regular school board meeting in Newton.
He informed the Newton School Board that evening of the situation. His interviews with the Creston School Board and subsequent job offer were made Thursday evening. According to Creston School Board president Sharon Snodgrass, the decision to hire McDermott was unanimous.
He said he wasn't sure what his last day in Newton would be, but superintendent contracts typically run July 1 through June 30. While his current salary with the Newton Community School District is about $156,600, he will be making $143,000 a year in Creston.
McDermott's contract, which is still contingent upon the formality of a required background check, will be for three years, Snodgrass said. Her Newton counterpart, Andy Elbert, said Newton's loss will be Creston's gain.
"Steve has done some pretty great things for us here, so it's hard to see him go, but I understand change is needed every once in a while and I understand why he needed to accept this new position," he said. "We wish him well in his new position in Creston. We will start the process of finding his replacement soon ... I haven't had a chance to speak with the other board members about it, yet."