Having completed his first, full year as Eden Valley-Watkins School District superintendent, Mark Messman received an “A” in the recent annual school board review of his position. Board chairperson Sarah Kuechle, along with board members Bob Stenger and Rob Flaschenriem, reviewed the feedback provided via written evaluation. “Overwhelmingly, in categories such as leadership, policy and law, organizational management, communication, etc., the board is very pleased with the job Mark has done in his short time with us,” Kuechle said. Stepping into the “big shoes” of retired, long-time superintendent Larry Peterson, Messman faced plenty of immediate challenges, including the replacement of retired Activities Director/Dean of Students Jay Johnson and Business Manager Nick Thielen. Messman was also confronted with managing the $9.6 million building project to improve school facilities, a shift in the role of school board chair, and the added challenge of directing the new strategic planning process for the expired, current plan. “These changes and challenges would be overwhelming for any new superintendent to address his or her first year in a new district, let alone a FIRST-TIME superintendent! The EV-W School Board could not be more pleased at how well the transition has gone,” said Kuechle.
The strategic plan, encompassing its mission, vision and goals, remains perhaps the most vital piece of the puzzle for Messman, but chairperson Kuechle feels confident about his ability to meet the challenge with full force. “Mark has proven to excel at group facilitation and planning/organization thus far in this process. I don’t doubt that through his leadership and the insightful participation from community, staff, students and school board stakeholders, this project will set our district on the right path for continued success.”
School board member Bob Stenger is very impressed with the technological insights Messman has shown thus far in his early tenancy. “Mark’s becoming our superintendent has been as smooth as I could ever have dreamed. He supplies the board with weekly reports, via e-mail, keeping us in tune with the building project progress, and even what is going on in the state capital. Mark has introduced BoardBook to us, and we are going to use it for the first time at this evening’s board meeting.” BoardBook is an electronic agenda-preparation software tool, designed to manage the paper devoted to board meeting agenda packets, which are accessed through a web browser. Because each agenda packet is delivered as a single PDF file, board members have a number of delivery options. The packets can be read both online and offline on iPads, e-book readers, laptops and other portable devices. Stenger said that Messman has a vision on growth and is striving to be the best superintendent possible, through real hands-on training with the board, the administrative staff, and the faculty at EV-W. The recent school board review is the first of its kind for Stenger, in his 11-year stint sitting on the board. “Overall, Mark’s review was stellar but, as Mark knows, there is always room for improvement. Mark has big shoes to fill with our previous superintendent retiring, but he is doing a great job with the completion of the building project and also helping the new administrative staff. I was on the committee that interviewed Mark, and so far I believe we got the best man for the job.”
Bob Flaschenriem, EV-W school board member, believes Messman’s greatest attributes are his willingness to learn and communicate. “He is always looking and learning what the district needs to do to continue to stay strong and grow. Mark’s leadership in the strategic planning committee will give our school district a roadmap to follow over the next few years.” Messman keeps the community abreast of district happenings through local newspapers and school websites. “He goes out of his way to make sure he is available to anyone who needs his time for whatever reason. Mark’s professionalism and compassion is seen through the way he listens, and gives his honest opinion, even when it is not what you want to hear,” Flaschenriem said. The EV-W school board members anticipate the district’s future to be bright, under the capable leadership of superintendent Messman. “He has shown us he is up for the task, so let’s show him we are too! If you see Mark out and about, please let him know how he is doing and thank him for his service,” said Flaschenriem.
Accolades abound, as the long-time and much respected superintendent Larry Peterson offers commentary on his new and capable successor. “I think Mark has done a good job in his first year as superintendent. He has gained the respect of the staff and school board with his professionalism and his vision for the future. He has been a good choice for the district.”
Messman completed his undergraduate work at the University of Sioux Falls, and his graduate and administrative work at St. Mary’s University. His teaching and coaching career started in 1987 at Cromwell School District. Mark’s 20-year career in the educational milieu encompasses head football coaching duties, teaching, working as activities director, and serving as principal at Holdingford School District. His first-year accomplishments as EV-W superintendent include oversight of the construction project, initiating and facilitating the district’s new 5-year strategic plan, and hiring new business office staff.
“Next year, in addition to accomplishing my pre-determined goals, I hope to establish PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), maintain a positive fund balance, and demonstrate fiscal responsibility. I also look forward to maintaining weekly school building and community visits,” Messman said.