THE CITY GATE — John Howard knew what he wanted in his first superintendent job and found it at Union Community Schools.
Currently the principal of Independence Junior Senior High School, he was named the Union’s new district leader last month.
“Union has a strong tradition of academic and extracurricular excellence,” Howard said, and continuing that will be one of its top priorities. “Everyone I spoke to said Union was a great place, and I recognized that during the interview process.
“I think the first priority will be to develop relationships with as many stakeholders as possible,” he added. And, building on the Union Schools’ strong academic and athletic tradition, he hopes to “lead the district positively into the future.”
The Board of Education approved a two-year contract with Howard beginning July 1 for an annual salary of $155,000. He will replace Travis Fleshner, who becomes director of Aplington-Parkersburg Community Schools.
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Howard, 48, has been an educator for 26 years – 11 as a teacher and coach, 15 as a principal. He earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Drake University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Central College.
Howard worked as a Spanish teacher beginning in the fall of 1996 for Essex Community Schools before moving the next year to Lynnville-Sully Community Schools, where he taught for a decade. He served as Principal of Kingsley-Pierson Community Schools from 1997 to 2009 and later became Principal of 7-12 Schools and Program Director of St. Edmond Catholic Schools in Fort Dodge. Since 2014, he has been at Independence Junior Senior High.
“I’ve been at Independence for eight years,” Howard said. “Two of our sons will graduate from Independence and we’ve done a lot of great things at Independence.” However, he got his superintendent endorsement in 2017 from the University of Northern Iowa and “it was time to take the next step in my educational journey.”
Union Schools launched a search in February with the help of Grundmeyer Leader Services as the board accepted Fleshner’s resignation, effective at the end of June.
“At the end of the application period, we had 17 applicants and felt like we had a very strong pool,” said Corey Lorenzen, chairman of the board. Applicants were vetted and narrowed down to three finalists, interviewed by two teams of community members, staff and students with the board.
“Honestly, I felt like we had three strong candidates,” Lorenzen said, but Howard emerged as the top pick. “He just had an idea of what was needed in the role of superintendent. He presented in the interview a vision and plan for the district that was what we as a council were looking for.
“We’re excited for the next chapter,” he noted, with “Mr. Howard guiding us forward.
Along with his sons — ages 21 and 17, the youngest of whom will graduate from Independence this spring — Howard and his wife, Duana, have a 13-year-old daughter. She will be in eighth grade next fall. The family plans to settle in the Union District, parts of which are in three counties and include the communities of La Porte City, Dysart and Geneseo.
“I’m excited to start on July 1, and we’re excited as a family to be an integral part of the Union Community School District,” Howard said.
Photos: 2022 Peace Officers Memorial Service