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Gaylord Tryon helps new superintendent, school board bond

Published: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 11:02 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 11:04 a.m. CDT

Gaylord Tryon served as the intermediary for the Newton Community School District Board of Education and the district’s new Superintendent Bob Callaghan during a special work session on Monday to develop a better working relationship between the parties.

The district hired Tryon’s firm in March to aide them in the search to replace former Superintendent Steve McDermott.

During the more than 90-minute work session, a multitude of items were discussed and Callaghan proposed some major changes for the bi-monthly school board meetings.

Under the proposed new format, Callaghan said one meeting would focus on instruction, student success and would be attended by all the district’s administrators and directors. The other meeting would be solely about district business and would be attended by the heads of transportation, maintenance, IT and food services.

Another item that was discussed was the weekly communication report that Callaghan sends to the board.

“It’s beneficial,” board president Andy Elbert said. “It gives us an idea of what’s going on during the week.”

“I concur,” board member Sherri Benson said. “It’s an excellent way to get to know him and see his leadership style.”

Board member Dennis Combs echoed the sentiments of both Benson and Elbert. He said it can be frustrating, as a board member, when concerned citizens ask questions about a situation and board members aren’t in the know.

“Communication is the number one key,” Combs said. “It’s been more than we had been (previously) getting.”

Callaghan said he was more than comfortable providing communication to the board, as long as it utilized.

The work session also prompted the board and Callaghan to respectively define their roles in the district.

“We are a true board of directors, we set policy and we oversee it,” board member Don Poynter said. “We still have only one employee. We don’t take calls directly from teachers, unless they are a friend, and we are not involved in the day-to-day operations.”

“The board of education needs to be learning leaders for the district,” Benson said. “So be the leader, so be the district.”

“The board is responsible to help set goals and direction for the district,” Callaghan said. “And to stay focused on those goals and the direction and not waffle. (The board) should be focused on those and net deter from the mission and lose sight.”

Tryon also commented on the board’s role.

“Individually, you have no power,” Tryon said. “Zero, the only authority you have is when you are sitting around this table. Appropriate chain of command must be followed.”

Callaghan also agreed that chain of command must be followed in order for the district to function properly and said he thinks that is important.

Tryon also said the district needed to come up with a long-range plan and used the Emerson Hough Elementary School closing as an example of not having a long-range plan. He also asked the board what it expected from Callaghan and what he needed from the board.

The board said it expects Callaghan to be open and honest with them, maintain visibility within the city, be a good delegator, be public relations for the district, be involved with parents and to find balance between work and family.

Callaghan told the board he wanted them to be honest with him as well, be trustworthy and to be supportive of one another and not throwing each other under the bus. He also said he wanted the board to be committed to the district’s overlying goals and mission statement.

He also said his primary purpose was to provide leadership and being accountable for everyone in the district.

“The final component is making sure we focus on the goals within the district,” Callaghan said.

At the end of the session, Tryon seemed to take pride in his firm’s role in bringing Callaghan to Newton.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with your selection, Bob,” Tryon said. “We knew this was going be a great combination.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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