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Staying involved: Stutting leaves his mark on community, school district

Stutting leaves his mark on community, school district

Jun. 7, 2014
 
Sturgeon Bay School District superintendent Joe Stutting talks with sophomore Sydney Tlachac inside the library on Monday. Stutting was hired by the North Scott School District, 30 miles east of Iowa City, in Iowa, starting July 1.
Sturgeon Bay School District superintendent Joe Stutting talks with sophomore Sydney Tlachac inside the library on Monday. Stutting was hired by the North Scott School District, 30 miles east of Iowa City, in Iowa, starting July 1. / photos by Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate
Sturgeon Bay School District superintendent Joe Stutting has accepted a position at the North Scott School District, 30 miles east of Iowa City, in Iowa, starting July 1.
Sturgeon Bay School District superintendent Joe Stutting will begin July 1 as the superintendent of the North Scott School District, 30 miles east of Iowa City, in Iowa. / Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate

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Those who worked closely with Sturgeon Bay Superintendent Joe Stutting over the past eight years say two things about him: He is the district’s face in the community, and he is upfront with his staff.

Stutting recently accepted the administrator’s post with the North Scott Community School District in Scott County, Iowa. This was his first superintendent’s position.

Dan Tjernagel, principal at Ripon High School, has been selected as the new superintendent of the Sturgeon Bay School District and is slated to start July 1, the same day Stutting takes charge at North Scott.

Stutting took part in a number of community groups and boards, including the Door County Economic Development Corp. board, Door Kewaunee Business Education Partnership, Board of Review, Cable Board, and the Booster Club, just to name a few. He also served on the Sturgeon Bay City Council and volunteered with the high school and middle school wrestling program.

“For me as a superintendent, you need to make sure that you are the face of the school district,” Stutting said this week. “Being involved in the community really shows the community how active the school district is within the community.”

Within the school district he made a point to get into each of the three elementary buildings at least once a week. Sometimes it would be just to walk through the building, and other times he would stop to help with a student having a behavioral issue or a homework problem.

He said his reason for doing this was so the students knew who their superintendent was.

He also made sure parents knew they could call him anytime. Over the years Stutting has answered phone calls from parents at night and even opened the school for kids who forgot to bring their homework home.

“When you’re accessible, you develop relationships,” he said.

He hopes to maintain this accessibility for students and parents at North Scott. The district is larger than Sturgeon Bay and has a separate district office.

“In my new district it will be a little more challenging. There are five elementary schools and five communities over a 220-square-mile area,” he said.

The relationships Stutting built in the community helped each time the district asked voters to approve a revenue cap override.

“Joe was able to create relationships at all levels from the administrative team, to teaching staff, to support staff, to community members,” said Sturgeon Bay High School Principal Bob Nickel. “These relationships created a level of trust that was important in our successful revenue cap override votes.”

Communication

Stutting said he tried to not shy away from tough issues.

“I wasn’t willing to brush them under the carpet,” he said.

One example was notifying the public via the district newsletter about Sturgeon Bay students being caught with e-cigarettes earlier this school year.

“You got a problem, admit you have a problem,” he said. Stutting thinks “people respect that.”

Communicating tough issues came in handy when Act 10 of 2011 went into effect. The bill limited many areas where public unions are able to bargain collectively.

“The uproar over that and having unhappy employees, he led us through very well,” School Board President Joel Kitchens said.

Stutting said the district is still working on making the transition.

“Joe was a very good superintendent. He was good communicator, and he worked with people. Helped everybody see both sides of the issue,” said Cliff Wind, math teacher and former teachers union president and negotiator.

Family

Stutting had nothing but praise for his staff, the community and the life he has built here. His main motivation in taking the job in Iowa is to be closer to family.

“If our family lived in this area, there would be no reason to leave,” he said.

Besides having grandkids in Iowa, both Stutting and his wife, Jami, have aging parents. His brother also has six children in the North Scott Community School District.

Stutting said originally he was not even considering applying for the position. One night he realized the superintendent job might not open up for years.

“I don’t make a lot of rash decisions,” but with his family’s blessing he threw together a resume in 12 hours.

Twelve days later he had the job.

Stutting’s youngest daughter, Lindsay, will stay in Sturgeon Bay with Jami Stutting.

“I feel so good about the system, my daughter is going to stay here and graduate,” he said.

He plans to live with family for a while and later rent an apartment until his wife and daughter move to Iowa.

“I’ve been lucky the eight years that I’ve been here,” he said.

Contact Samantha Hernandez at svhernande@doorcountyadvocate.com or (920) 743-3321, Ext. 112.

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