GOSHEN COUNTY – From teacher to coach to administrator, the new superintendent for Goshen County School District No. 1 believes in face-to-face interaction.
“One of my main goals early on would to be able to go into a classroom and (students) not say, ‘Who’s that?’’ said Ryan Kramer, current superintendent of the West Sioux Community School District in Hawarden, Iowa, taking his turn at center stage during the third of three public forums Thursday at Torrington High School.
“The sooner I can be recognized, have students know who I am, the easier the job of superintendent becomes. Understanding the challenges teachers are facing, the challenges students have – if you don’t see those for yourself, nothing matches what first-hand knowledge means.”
The GCSD No. 1 Board of Trustees announced last week an offer had been made and, Monday, confirmed Kramer had accepted the position. Kramer, contacted in Iowa, confirmed his planned start date is July 1.
Kramer and his family – his wife, Stacy, and his children Jake, 14, Anneka, 12, and Drew, 10 – trekked from northwest Iowa to eastern Wyoming last week so the family could get the lay of the land and make sure the region would be a good fit. He said Monday they already felt like Goshen County was home.
“We were all in agreement we could definitely see ourselves in Goshen County,” Kramer said. “For me, looking through my children’s eyes, seeing how inviting the staff and community was for my kids – That’s such a driving force for me, my family’s happiness and what I can do for them.”
During a public forum earlier this month, part of the interview process, Kramer said he’s a proponent of collaborations and partnerships between schools and various sectors of the community. It’s something he’s worked on in Sioux County in extreme northwest Iowa, building on a state-wide initiative launched about seven years ago in the Hawkeye State.
The initiative, dubbed Iowa Big, started about seven years ago, Kramer said. His district is currently partnering with four other local Iowa districts to bring the benefits to northwest Iowa.
“It’s partnerships with local businesses to develop job opportunities,” Kramer said. “It’s team-teaching revolving around a single problem businesses presented, what activities we need to present to kids to meet that task.”
Next to preparing young people for the job market in a part of Iowa that’s economically very similar to Goshen County and eastern Wyoming, Kramer said student mental health has been a growing concern in districts across the nation. The West Sioux Community School District he current leads was the first district in the state of Iowa to have all its staff members prepped to intervene when young people face difficulties, something he called mental health first aid.
“We’ve been fortunate to reach kids in crisis before serious incidents have occurred,” Kramer said. “I can’t fully understand the challenges they face and the training we have to have. I work with good coordinators to point me in the direction we need to go.”
Kramer said he believes he would be a good fit for GCSD No. 1 due to the similarities between the districts. Both are small and predominantly rural and his experience at all grade levels would stand him well in the position.
“My knowledge and experience from elementary to high school lends itself well to small school districts,” Kramer said. “And I’ve always been drawn to the people of Wyoming – there’s a unique quality of independence.
“You’re supportive of each other, but you’re able to look to opportunities.”
Kramer has been superintendent in the West Sioux district for three years. He’s married with three children and his wife teaches chemistry in the district.
He started his educational career in 1999 as an elementary teacher in Aurora, Colo., moving to the North Central district in Manly, Iowa, in 2002, first as an assistant principal and Title I teacher, then as an elementary principal in 2004.
In 2006, he moved to West Sioux, again as an elementary principal for five years before becoming middle and high school principal in 2001, a position he held until 2016, when he was named Superintendent of Schools for the district.
“Carrying those different administrative hats and creating relationships made my job as superintendent easier,” Kramer said. “When you create those relationships (with students and their parents), seeing people face-to-face, a different relationship is established.