Retiring superintendent reflects on time with Thompson School District

By Katie Harris

The Surveyor

This summer Thompson School District will welcome a new superintendent to the helm, as Dr. Stan Scheer retires after 53 years in education.

Dr. Stan Scheer

Scheer, who received his orders to report for active duty in the U.S. Army just months into his first teaching job in Laramie, Wyo., returned to Wyoming to teach before taking superintendent positions in Missouri and later, California. He accepted the position with Thompson in 2012, wanting to be closer to family in Colorado and Wyoming.

Overcoming obstacles

Leading an entire school district is bound to come with a few challenges, and Scheer’s time with Thompson was no exception.

“I came at a time when things were in a bit of a stir,” he said. “I’d planned on retiring in Southern California at the time, but I got a call asking if, with my background, I’d be interested in coming to Thompson for a while.”

“When [Scheer] came to the district there were some different challenges going on,” said Thompson board of education director, Paul Bankes, who previously served in several roles within the district, including executive director for elementary education. “It was very refreshing having him come on board. He had a lot of passion and a lot of energy. He wanted to make an impact on the community and gave us all a lot of inspiration.”

Scheer faced a hard hit just two years into the job when his chief financial officer, Steve Towne, passed away in a car accident. The next year Dan Mass, the district’s chief operations officer and an integral player in creating the district’s master plan, was also killed in a car wreck.

“I lost two of my major players – two people who supported and worked hard in the district in leadership positions,” said Scheer. “You’ve got to readjust and get over the emotion of losing such top people and move on from there. It isn’t easy, but you do it.”

During a time when Scheer was already facing devastating losses within his own administration, frequent changes to the majority school board were creating additional obstacles.

“We’ve had three majority boards since I’ve been here, so about every two years we had a shift in how the board thinks,” he said. “As a school superintendent, having to adjust to each of those groups and make things happen has been a challenge.”

Bankes said despite an uphill battle over the years in trying to increase revenue both at a local and state level, and trying to overcome the influences of a school board that wasn’t always supportive of public education, Scheer stuck with his convictions and never gave up, paving the way for the incoming administration.

Leaving behind a legacy

Although it wasn’t always easy being the go-between with a changing school board, teachers and administrators, parents and the community as a whole, those who knew him say Scheer’s commitment to communication and transparency are what he’ll be most remembered for.

“When I think about [Scheer’s] accomplishments the first thing that comes to mind is community outreach,” said Bankes. “Trying to make the school district better understood and viewed as part of the larger community, and trying to figure out how we can connect with different community agencies and unify everyone together to do what’s best for our kids, those things have always been important to him.”

 

Thompson’s chief academic officer, Margaret Crespo, also lauded Scheer for his ability to communicate and form relationships with members of the community.

“He worked hard to bring the community and the district together, and he’s very well respected as a result,” she said. “I feel like his ability to communicate our circumstances and connect to all kinds of community members, to bridge that gap and form relationships are his strongest assets.”

The array of programs that have grown and developed in recent years is another mark of success for the superintendent.

“We have a number of outstanding programs that highlight the quality of the school district,” he said. “Our concurrent enrollment program, which is probably three times as big as when I first got here, is one that I’m especially proud of. It gives students a chance to get up to 1.5 years of their college taken care of in high school, which saves their parents money on college, and motivates kids to look beyond high school and at their future job responsibilities.”

Thompson’s graduation rate has moved up five points during Scheer’s time with the district, which he attributes to frequent conversations about the importance of learning and performance, as well as extracurricular opportunities, to make sure kids stay in school.

“[Scheer] feels very strongly and passionately about our kids being successful,” said Bankes. “He’s provided as many opportunities as possible for our kids so that every student has a path to go on, and he’s worked to actively engage kids in thinking about that future, with options and pathways for students to take.”

In Berthoud, Scheer’s most proud of the agriculture education program that was brought back to the district four years ago.

“We’ve grown from a small program to a very vibrant, healthy program there,” he said. “I’m grateful for the support we’ve received from the community for that, and I was also most appreciative of the support we got from [Berthoud farmer] Bill Markham.”

After more than half a century in education, Scheer said his greatest sources of pride are the countless diplomas he’s signed his name to over the years.

“At the end of the day, looking at all those students and their accomplishments, that’s the reward in it all,” he said. “Every once in a while someone surfaces for being nationally recognized and that’s sort of my 15 minutes of fame without that student even knowing my name is on his diploma.”

Hopes for Berthoud

Scheer said plans are already in place for addressing deferred maintenance issues in all four Berthoud schools, as well as building additions to both elementary schools.

Land has also been purchased for a new elementary school in Berthoud and a possible addition to the local high school. All that’s needed now is for the communities (both Loveland and Berthoud) to offer their support.

“I’m pleased that we’re having the right conversation right now – that it’s already on the table,” said Scheer. “The new superintendent coming in won’t have to start from scratch, he can basically take this package and refine it and hopefully take it forward in terms of asking the community to support a bond-mill combination to provide the resources needed to do those things.”

Retiring, but not saying goodbye

When Scheer hands over the reins this summer it will be for the last time as a superintendent, but he said his involvement with Thompson is far from over.

“I think this is a great place to live, with a lot of great people,” he said. “I’m most appreciative of the support I’ve received within the community and the relationships I’ve made. However, I can be supportive of Thompson, I really want to continue to do that.”

“[Scheer’s] given his entire life to education, so he deserves this retirement, but I know in walking away he’s still going to advocate for the community and these kids,” said Bankes. “The amount of effort he’s given this district hasn’t always been easy, but he never backed down or complained. He gave it full effort all the time to try to achieve good things in this district, and that should be commended and respected.”

Scheer said he’s looking forward to spending time on the golf course with his retired brother who lives just down the street from him in Windsor and, after years of following his wife from place to place while she was in the Navy, he said they’re both ready to settle down in Colorado for the long haul, helping Thompson’s new superintendent with the transition whenever needed.

“He’s a really nice guy, with a lot of desire to do some fantastic things here,” said Scheer. “Whatever I can do to be supportive without getting in his hair, I’ll do.”

“[Scheer’s] an amazing leader, and his vision is far beyond anything I’ve experienced in my career, even having worked with a lot of great superintendents,” said Crespo.

“I certainly hope that we can continue in the trajectory that he led us on, enhancing opportunities for student success and making a difference for each kid, because that was his vision, and that’s what this is all about.”

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,