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Bergman submits resignation as Clarinda Superintendent

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HJ - Standard Chris Bergman

Chris Bergman

The resignation of Clarinda Community School District Superintendent Chris Bergman was accepted by the Board of Education during a meeting Jan. 26.

She will formally leave the position on June 30.

“Finding the words to express my time in Clarinda, as well as the next steps in my journey, has brought me peace, and I am hopeful the progress made in the past few years will carry forward,” Bergman commented after the meeting. “I appreciate the opportunity to share some of the highlights.”

She said that she had “built relationships with people who truly care about the growth of our students and the community. Since my arrival, they have taken time to reach out, ask questions, offer ideas, support partnerships, get to know me and welcome me to southwest Iowa. Through these personal interactions, they have come to know my heart and commitment to enhancing the human experience for everyone within and outside the walls of our school district. For this, I am blessed and grateful.”

Extending beyond the relationships that were built, she said, “I believe in the learning and leadership mindset developed over the past few years. Many teachers, instructional coaches, counselors, support staff, students, and administrators have shown leadership through initiating our Leader in Me learning, which affords empowerment to our students. Many have led by creating more opportunities for college-credit courses at IWCC. We are now offering 64 different courses, and this semester, we will utilize IWCC’s newly remodeled laboratories to bring to life and more engaging, in-depth learning to our students. Many have led in the area of wellness and mental health support, as we have added School-Based Interventionists, Behavior Learning Advisors, Master Social Workers, and a student-led team (REST) to support the social-emotional and physical needs of our school community.”

Bergman noted that “many business and industry partners have supported our efforts to engage students in work-based learning experiences such as job shadows, internships, and other opportunities to support students in exploring careers and finding their next steps after walking out our doors and into the world. The addition of computer science, robotics, coding, design-thinking, and other technology experiences has become a reality through teachers who have stepped up to learn new concepts, stretch their thinking and expand the horizon for others through their own leadership and personal development.”

Along with relationship building, she pointed to “team building, and we have excelled in this arena. Over the past two years, we have a retention rate for new teachers and staff that is well above the Iowa average. Changing our interview process to find the right people, welcoming and supporting through mentoring and care, and folding them into the Clarinda community with open arms has been the charge of many of our leaders.”

Each person, Bergman said, “has a ‘leader in me (us)’, and the celebrations from the last few years have only happened due to a spirit of collaboration and a mindset of continuous improvement that so many have embraced. I am proud to have been able to watch people become the best version of themselves and focus on students. And, I am certain these leaders will continue to lead in this way.”

Regarding her future, she said, “I have intentionally chosen to take some time to focus on my family and the people that bring my life joy. There are many ways to serve, and I will seek out the one that allows me to share the experiences and strengths I possess. A part of my heart will hold Clarinda close.”

Bergman has been with the Clarinda district since June of 2019. After the resignation of former Superintendent Deron Stender earlier in the year, Bergman assumed the position on an interim basis, then was offered a superintendent’s contract in December 2019.

Prior to coming to Clarinda, Bergman was the central office administrator with the Johnston Community School District. Before that, she served in the Waukee Community School District for three years -- two years as middle school principal and then a year as executive director of the Center for Advanced Professional Studies.

HJ - Standard School Board New

With Bergman’s planned departure now known, the board decided to solicit information from consulting firms that assist school districts in finding applicants for superintendent positions.

“Some of us have been through this type of thing before,” President Darin Sunderman said. “In the past we’ve employed a search firm to help. They do bring a lot of credibility.”

Director Greg Jones said, “I just know that if you don’t have a search firm, it’s a monumental task. That’s a lot to try and navigate alone.”

The firms, he noted, “do a lot of background work. They bring you to the final candidates you are comfortable with, then they bring them to the table.”

The board agreed to contact four firms -- Grundmeyer Leader Search, EDWise, Ray and Associates, and McPherson and Jacobson.

Each will be asked to provide a presentation -- either virtually or in person -- to the board detailing what services they offer and a timeframe for when candidates for the Clarinda position could be interviewed by directors.

Meanwhile, in addition to accepting Bergman’s resignation, the board approved the resignation of Craig Hill, the district’s maintenance director, effective March 18. He is retiring from the position, which he has held since 2001.

Hill is the current mayor of Clarinda, elected to that office in November of 2021.

In other matters at the Jan. 26 meeting, the board approved participation in a program offered through Green Hills Area Education Agency (AEA) by which current paraprofessionals in the school system can obtain authorization allowing them to substitute teach.

The district will pay $252 for each authorization, with that amount to cover a background check, course work (delivered online) and certification.

Bergman said enabling the paraprofessionals to obtain the authorization was a way to “help our principals with more flexibility with subs. With authorization, we have more subs in our pool for paraeducators, and we can move them up. It’s highly beneficial to them and us.”

She said the district has provided professional learning opportunities for paraeducators the past two years, along with scheduling various kinds of training sessions.

Director Paul Boysen said in conjunction with the AEA program, “I think we need to have some type of quality control” regarding “what we expect these teachers to do and how they do it.”

He specifically mentioned the importance of training in “classroom management” so that teachers could focus on instruction rather than on student behavior.

Also at the meeting, the board approved a memorandum of understanding with the AEA for the Clarinda district to take part in a program that seeks to prevent violence against students themselves and against others.

The district, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, will establish behavioral threat assessment teams, and will develop emergency preparedness and assessment policies, protocols and procedures.

A training session on suicide prevention and behavioral threat issues is scheduled for the week of June 6.

Bergman said that although the district’s involvement in the program represented a “first time” for such a collaboration, “we have been honing our plan and skills with emergency response. So ours will look a little different in that it will be a refinement.”

In other business at the Jan. 26 session, the board:

Authorized a payment of $3,464.20 to JR & Co., pending approval by the district’s legal counsel. The payment relates to issues with damage to school property caused by the contractor during roofing work that began in 2020.

Gave approval for the 9-12 boys and girls track teams to compete at an indoor meet March 18 at Doane College in Crete, Neb.

Scheduled a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 in the central office boardroom at the McKinley building on the district’s proposed 2022-2023 school calendar.

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