October 26, 2021

Meant to be

New C-M Jr./Sr. High Principal Alexandra Lancaster feels right at home

When new Colfax-Mingo Jr./Sr. High School Principal Alexandra Lancaster left after her interview for the position, she just knew it was meant to be. After meeting students, talking with staff and interacting with community members, she felt Colfax-Mingo was the perfect place for her.

“Colfax-Mingo was different (when I was interviewing.) When I came home I told my husband I said there was something about this one that I felt such a connection with, it just fit perfectly. There was just something different about Colfax-Mingo, it felt like a better fit and a good place to be,” Lancaster said. “I also saw the direction they are going with their mission and vision and the collective commitments they have and I felt like I have a lot of experience with the PLC, grading practices and data driven and it seemed every box they were looking for and what I was looking for seemed to be check along the way.

“I loved being able to meet a lot of the kids here that day. They all loved Mr. Jones but they were also excited for a new person to come in and were very up front with me about some different ideas. It was nice getting to meet so many different pockets on the interview team. I really feel like I got to understand it.”

A Waukee native, Lancaster is jumping into a new pool having only worked in larger districts. With Southeast Polk and Johnston on her resume, she was ready to move into a district with a smaller fit.

“I really wanted to go to a smaller district because I had really only ever known large ones, Waukee, Southeast Polk, Johnston. And I love them, but there is something about a small school,” Lancaster said. “My husband is from LeMars and he loved his childhood and growing up and I want that for my three sons.”

Lancaster received her bachelors in psychology from Creighton University and then went on to get her masters in teaching at Drake. She always knew she wanted to work with kids and through her schooling found teaching to be the path for her.

“I’ve always known leadership is an area I have wanted to get into so I started at Drake for the educational leadership program, the masters there. I worked at that while I was at Johnston and I was also a Lead teacher there so I worked with teachers along with being in my classroom. I graduated with my masters in education leadership in May 2020,” Lancaster said.

After doing her research, she took the step to apply at Colfax-Mingo for a position in administration. She said a lot of factors led her to Spring City, one big one being the superintendent.

“Mr. Anderson was a huge drawing point for me. He is a phenomenal superintendent and a great leader. He was a big factor in my decision,” Lancaster said. “Also, my grandmother, part of her family grew up here. It was cool to hear that background from my grandmother’s perspective, too.”

During her first few months, Lancaster is focused on building relationships and a positive culture in the school. While she may be the “new kid in class” she is more than ready to jump in and start creating a fantastic environment for students to thrive.

“I have tried to work with many teachers over the summer, ask them some general questions and a common trend is always about culture,” Lancaster said. “Building those relationships with staff and students. I don’t feel we can truly focus on academics or ask students to go full steam ahead into academics if we don’t have that relationship and positive culture with them. My first step is continuing what is already started but then really increasing that. Getting those positive relationships going so we can keep improving with student achievement.”

She has already floated out some new ideas to staff and the response has been great. Through collaboration and receiving feedback, she is beginning to build bridges within the school community to create trust moving into the academic year.

“I’ve asked a lot of questions and I reiterate, I don’t know what I don’t know so tell me and let’s work through this and collaborate,” Lancaster said. “I have an idea for some flex time next year and I said anyone that wants to come in, I am looking for feedback. I presented my thoughts and then for two hours they gave me suggestions, questions, praise and we worked through them. When I go to all staff in a couple weeks I have some of the fine tooth things combed out. I am working to build trust with the staff to show I do have an open mind, open ear ready to listen and work together.”

Lancaster is itching to get kids in the halls and teachers in the classrooms to start the new year. A lot of time and effort goes into getting the school ready during the summer months but hearing the voices of kids and the excitement in the air is what she is most excited for.

“I keep hearing about them and I see their names over and over again,” Lancaster said. “I also had a great group of students that were on my interview team and I am excited to reconnect with them again. I asked them what are some of the things they wanted for this school year, so talking with them about that and showing that I follow through. I am definitely ready for all of the students be here and all of the staff to be there, too. They pop in because it is summertime but I just want to start that community sense more.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com