Dr. Richie of NPSD receives national award: 2012 Superintendent of the Year!

The Northland Pines School District celebrated Dr. Richie's national award with a reception at the Northland Pines High School.  Below is his interview with the National Association of Superintendents, who awarded him this top honor.


Give us a snapshot of the latest developments in your district.

Many changes are underway in Wisconsin.  We no longer have collective bargaining due to Act 10. The only item we are able to legally negotiate with union representatives is Total Base Wages; the maximum that the School Boards throughout the state are allowed to increase is set by the current Consumer Price Index (CPI). In addition, as Wisconsin was granted a waiver for parts of No Child Left Behind, Wisconsin now has many new state initiatives.  The new reforms include the adoption of Common Core Standards.  A state “Universal Evaluation Tool” to be used for teachers and principals with 50% of the evaluation to be based on student performance has also been implemented.  Our district is one of the first districts to be developing a pay scale that will incorporate pay for performance.  It is my belief that we should be rewarding good teachers for doing an exceptional job in the classroom.  We should no longer be basing pay simply on years of experience and lane movement, but rather on how our educators are performing in the classroom.  The Northland Pines School District is known for being a front runner for initiatives and many other districts will be monitoring our model closely as we develop and implement our pay for performance salary structure.  We will be focusing on best practices and using the Balanced Literacy approach along with our common and state assessments.  We are also developing a charter school in our district for grades 5-8 and the long range plan is to also include a high school and an elementary charter school.   This is a busy place!


Tell us about how you see today’s superintendent.

     There have been tremendous changes in the expectations of school district superintendents in recent years. The Superintendent was always considered the instructional leader; however, he/she seemed to focus on the business and financial aspect of running a school district along with human resources.  Today’s Superintendent not only needs to focus on the above, we must have a strong knowledge base/background regarding curriculum and instruction.  It has always been my focus to know what is going on with our instruction and in the classrooms.  It is important for a Superintendent not only to visit the schools within the district but also visit the individual classrooms.  We need to observe the instruction being delivered first hand and we need to be directly communicating with students and staff.  The academic bar has been raised for all students, staff and districts and it is the Superintendent’s role to ensure we are meeting that expectation.  Today’s school district CEO absolutely must be a highly effective, visible instructional leader as this is the only way to be successful and survive in this role. 

What new understandings did you acquire after two or three years on the job?

     Communication with all stakeholders in the district is the key component to a Superintendent’s success.  A successful Superintendent needs to keep the School Board informed as situations arise.  I learned over my first few years as a Superintendent that it is important that a School Board member is not blindsided by a staff member or community member regarding an issue.  The best piece of advice I could give to a new Superintendent would be no surprises at the Board level.  I focus on regularly communicating with staff, community and the Board; I have found that many times this simple communication diffuses or de-escalates situations quickly and effectively.

     Here are a few examples of how I communicate effectively with our stakeholders:

     1. Staff – I do a detailed weekly staff message to all employees through our network email.  This includes cooks, custodians, secretaries, paraprofessionals, teachers, administration, and Board.  I also hold four quarterly “Town Hall Meetings” where I share district, state and national initiatives with employees; these meetings also give all employees the opportunity to ask me questions about any item on their mind relating to our district or public education in general.  

     2. Community – We publish a very professional quarterly newsletter that is mailed out to all district residents via bulk mailing.  This newsletter is between 20-24 pages and contains articles and information from all schools within the district.  In addition, I do a monthly video-cast that can be viewed on YouTube or through our district webpage.  Our website contains a wealth of updated information regarding the Northland Pines School District.  We received a state award this past year recognizing excellence in our website.  I also host a quarterly “Coffee Klatch” at a local coffee shop for any interested community member to come and ask questions or they may sit and simply listen to my message or to the conversation with other community members; this informal setting helps community members connect personally with the Superintendent in a non-threatening neutral environment.  Many issues have been resolved over a cup of coffee and open conversation.

     3. Board – On Fridays I do a detailed weekly message to board members highlighting the events that took place throughout the week, good or bad.  Our board members have expressed appreciation at being kept apprised of issues in this manner.

     4. I make it a point to personally respond within less than 24 hours to all correspondence I receive whether it comes in the form of emails, phone calls, texts, regular mail, etc.  I maintain an open door policy with all stakeholders and my belief is that when they feel the need to communicate with the Superintendent, then it is important that I respond in a timely manner.  They need to know the Superintendent is listening and responding to their questions and concerns.  It’s important to Walk the Talk when you say you have an open door policy.

Share an idea to use or something you’ve learned with your colleagues.

     The best idea I can share is for the Superintendent to be extremely visible and very active within the community.  This goes a long way in every endeavor a Superintendent will attempt to achieve within the district.  Attend student events as much as possible and make it a priority to make this happen to show support for your students and programs.  Don’t just focus on the athletics; make sure you include academics and the Fine Arts and you will be amazed at the talent of your students!  The students appreciate this and the parents appreciate this so much.  Make this a priority in your schedule.  Don’t be afraid to volunteer and really be an active member of your community.  Grow partnerships with businesses and individuals who are stakeholders in the community.  We are truly all in this together if we want to progressively, effectively educate our students - the community needs to know the school district supports them as we also ask the community to support the school district.  Partnerships are crucial to a school district’s success.  You want your community to have a vested interest in your students’ success.

What strategies do you have in place for continuous improvement?

     We use research by William Daggett and Doug Reeves to generate focus with best practices, rigor and relevance. In our district we have established a District Leadership Team comprised of teachers, administrators, and two members of the School Board. The goal of this district wide Leadership Team is to look for that continuous improvement in our district.  We have implemented many great strategies through the hard work and dedication of this team.  Since the Leadership Team includes their colleagues, it is much easier to get staff buy in as we implement great new changes and school reform.  This team attends the Wisconsin Leadership Academy annually in Madison, Wisconsin, where we study the latest in educational research, best practices and we review model school reform strategies.  Together we single out the strategies most appropriate for our district.  I think this has proven effective because our test scores have continued to improve each year.  This team continues to meet throughout the school year to reflect on our current changes and to discuss the future direction of the district.

How can we improve the NASS.us website?

     We need to generate more involvement and participation.  I know we are all busy but if a Superintendent takes the time to post a comment and needs advice from their colleagues, than we need to make it a priority to respond to assist other Superintendents in their professional growth.  There is a ton of information on the NASS website that is extremely useful in our profession.  We all need to use the tools that are available to us through NASS.  I will make an effort to post information more frequently and I hope that other Superintendents around the nation will do the same as it is critical we all learn from each other as we navigate through the changes in our districts. 

     As an organization I think it is important that the Executive Committee meets face to face once per year.  These leaders could host some type of educational summit that may generate some great ideas for the website and for the membership. 


Above article directly quoted from the National Association of School Superintendents:



Shared by:  John & Diane Misina, Eliason Realty of the North, Inc. 
Eagle River, WI www.JohnMisina.com    

Create Free Account or
John and Diane Misina
By using our site, users agree
to the terms and privacy policy
Equal Housing Opportunity Realtor MLS
or