The North Platte Public Schools Board interviewed the first of four candidates for superintendent Monday night.
John Poppert, Superintendent of St. Paul’s Schools, spent the day meeting with various groups, including administration, principals, certified staff and community leaders. The board asked Poppert 18 questions, including what he thinks are his strengths.
“My strength is that I’m an organizer and can definitely multitask,” Poppert said. “With my school district, I play a lot of roles. I’m the CFO, I’m the program manager, I keep track of everything.
He said he had seven batteries on his desk and he knew what they were.
“In a small school, I don’t have principals,” Poppert said. “I’m the principal and being in a small school, I learned to multitask.”
Board member Angela Blaesi asked if it would be hard to give up some of the hats he currently wears at St. Paul.
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“I don’t think it will be difficult, but it will be a change,” Poppert said. “I will always have a hand in everything. I always want to be informed. I hate to use an old adage, but “the buck stops here”.
In his observations of the district, Poppert highlighted a number of strengths he sees.
“Positive school culture – students and staff,” Poppert said, “I heard over and over again today that they really like North Platte Public Schools.”
He said staff enjoy working with the district and the direction the school is taking, and feel like they are being heard.
“They trust their administration,” Poppert said. “I’ve heard this from teachers talking about their schools.”
Poppert was also impressed with other things.
“Your district’s financial stability is outstanding,” Poppert said. “Academic performance, when you look at your MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) scores, they are very good.”
The NPPS website drew praise from Poppert.
“Your website is as good as it gets in the state,” Poppert said.
He said that in his current district, MAP scores matter the most.
“We place very little emphasis on the NSCAS (Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System),” Poppert said.
One area of concern is the loss of students from districts in the region.
“I’m amazed that 500 students are pulling out of your district,” Poppert said. “I think that might be one of the main priorities is to find out why.”
Managing this situation, Poppert said, is important. He suggested he would meet with the parents and the student and see if the reason could be resolved to keep the student in the district.
Matt Pederson asked Poppert to define a situation that needed improvement or change and how he resolved it.
“It was my very first day on the job at St. Paul when I went to see their state scores,” Poppert said. “I brought in the elementary principal and said I was looking at our state scores and they’re not good.”
Poppert said the students’ composite score in elementary reading was 58%.
“We should be at 85%,” Poppert said. “It’s the wait and we have to figure out how we’re going to get to this point in two or three years.”
The program was modified the following year and grades in the third year reached the target of 85%.
“We brought in the teachers and a few of them were less than happy,” Poppert said. “I am a black and white person. There’s not a lot of gray in my world and I’m going to come out and say that’s our problem.
Poppert also said another of his strengths was budgeting and finances.
“We’re one of the poorest neighborhoods,” Poppert said, “so we have to be efficient.”
The board met in executive session to discuss the nominee and the various reactions from the groups he encountered throughout the day.
The next nominee, Phillip Picquet, Perkins County Schools Superintendent, will be interviewed at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the McKinley Education Center, 301 West F. St.