From the Desk of Dr. James Sutton
To the students, staff and patrons of Belle Plaine USD 357, I'd like to introduce my wife and myself to Belle Plaine and tell all how excited we are about coming to your town and district. Regarding my background, I'll work backwards a bit. I've been the superintendent at Riverside Community School District in Iowa for the past twelve years. It has been very enjoyable. I have a great board, a great staff and terrific students to work with. Riverside is also a rural district that encompasses three small towns and 225 square miles of farm land. It has consolidated twice in its history and currently has an enrollment of about 650 students and employs about 100 staff. You can recognize some of the similarities to Belle Plaine. And like Belle Plaine they passed a bond issue recently. I was part of the campaigns, and the completion date for the project is May 26 of this year. I’ve had many opportunities at Riverside. We’ve added several programs and initiatives that have made things better for students at Riverside and beyond. We’ve worked through lean years and, recently added staff because of increasing enrollment at our lower grades. I leave Riverside with a great deal of pride in the district and the improvements our entire team have been able to institute.
Before we came to Riverside I was the elementary principal and superintendent in South Haven, Kansas. I don't think I need to describe that district to you as you have been neighbors and partners in several ways for a number of years. Our time at South Haven was very special and rewarding as well, again being able to work with a great community, staff and students. We still have many friends and professional relationships in South Haven. My wife does a better job of staying in touch via Facebook, and she passes the latest information on to me.
My first stop professionally on this backwards journey was at Galena USD 499 in the southeast corner of Kansas. Many of you may be familiar with Galena. It is a school district of only 13 square miles (if memory serves me). I started there as a beginning elementary teacher for seven years, and still remember those classroom times and relationships fondly. After being out of the classroom for more than two decades, I still hear from students that remember times in my class. That is priceless to me. I moved into administration at Galena after seven years teaching sixth and later fifth grade and left after twelve years total as their assistant superintendent. It has been my privilege to have worked in rural smaller school systems where you can remain close to people in this "people" business we call education. It is the great equalizer in our country, and I’m a firm believer that everyone --- everyone --- gets a chance/chances at chasing their dreams in this country, and that chance should have some of its roots in the public education experience.
Regarding my family, you will be meeting my wife, Cheryl, of thirty-seven years --- a testimony of her endurance. We have two children that are now providing us with an exciting new part of life for us --- grandchildren. My daughter lives with her husband in Pittsburg, Kansas, and they have one son, Collin, closing in on his second birthday in July. My son and his wife live in Winfield, Kansas, where he is a paramedic with the fire department, and they also operate a gym for the public. Through their union I have an eight-year-old grandson, Joe, and a second one on the way. Both of my children are what I consider success story graduates of rural schools. I firmly believe that Kansas rural schools give our students the academic tools as well as the character building opportunities that are so important to be successful as citizens.
I am looking forward to getting started at Belle Plaine, getting to know the community and students, and rolling up my sleeves on the building project and many other opportunities that will continue USD 357 on its continued journey of excellence. Once I get started (July 1), consider my door open. Feel free to stop in and introduce yourself.
No "Homework" exist(s)