By Travis Mounts, TSnews
CHENEY – At this month’s USD 268 Cheney Board of Education meeting, superintendent David Grover officially submitted his intent to retire at the end of the current school year.
Grover has been eligible to retire for six years, and he said there was not any individual reason that led to the decision.
“There’s a lot that went into it,” he said this week.
One major factor, however, was a stroke that he suffered at the end of last year. His wife, Jodi, left her job to care for him. Once released from the hospital, Grover recuperated from home. He worked from home at first, and gradually spent more and more time in the office.
Over the summer, she started a new job as principal at Burlington High School. That helped make the timing right for Grover to move on.
“My family has followed me around for 30 years. It’s time to flip the script,” he said.
Grover noted that his wife is five years younger than him, and also has traveled a lot for work over the years. He said it is better for their long-term plans to now make her career the top priority.
Over the past 11 years, Grover has dealt with only 12 board of education members. It is common for BOE members to turn over every election, and the average superintendent stays in any given job for less than four years. The kind of stability Grover found in Cheney is a rare thing. He ranks in the top 10 of longest-tenured superintendents currently in Kansas.
“You have no idea of what it does for you on a day-to-day basis,” he said. He especially praised the leadership of Jason Gregory and Marcia Kampling, who have served as board president during Grover’s tenure. “Nobody here runs for the board with a single-issue agenda. They do it out of a sense of duty.”
Grover noted that there are only 285 public school superintendents in Kansas. Nearly 70 of them are new this year.
Grover expects to keep working in some capacity, but he’s not sure what.
“It’s the first time I’ve done anything without a plan going forward,” he said.
Grover majored in history and earned a social studies minor. He also taught government.
His first job was at Golden Plains, located near Colby. He went to Erie, and then taught at Ottawa for 15 years. Next came five years at Iola. He was principal there before coming to Cheney, his first and only job as a superintendent.
In addition, Grover coached during two of the three sports seasons early in his career.
Being principal or superintendent can be an all-consuming job.
“Your hobbies, your interests go away,” he said. “You are married to it. This job is 24/7, 365. It becomes an all-in kind of profession.”
Becoming an administrator was not among his early career plans.
“It took a lot of people in the profession to push me in this direction. I owe so many people a debt of gratitude,” Grover said.
Last year, Grover placed second in the annual superintendent of the year awards. He downplayed any individual achievements.
“I never felt I achieved anything in and of itself. The role lets you help initiatives and people do a lot of things. Without support, you spend all your time putting out fires,” he said. “It’s hard to leave Cheney better than it was because it does so well.”
Recently, Grover was looking over league, substate and state banners in the Cheney High School gymnasium. There were more than 90 added over the past 10 years.
He noted that CHS principal Greg Rosenhagen and CHS activities director Todd Hague came into their positions at the roughly the same time Grover became superintendent.
“These two are such lynchpins of the things you see,” Grover said.
He also boasted that last year Cheney led Kansas in the rankings for college and post-secondary success. Cheney was the first small school to have a full-time college and career director, a position added nine years ago.
“I want people to say, ‘I sent my kids to a school that cares for my kids’ success,’” he said. Universal preschool is another addition that he is proud of.
The district was one of the first to adopt a one-to-one device policy for students, meaning each student has their own laptop or tablet for school. The most recent bond issue was passed with 75 percent approval.
There continue to be challenges for all school districts.
“To me, the biggest change is society has allowed education to become so political,” he said. “I don’t think everyone thought it would go so much into schools.”
He said one thing remains unchanged, however.
“Kids are not different. Their interests have changed, as have ours. Schools need to change to the needs of students. Kids want a person in front of them,” Grover said.
The Kansas Association of School Boards will have a representative at the October BOE meeting to get started on hiring Grover’s replacement. He said it is likely the position will be filled in December or January. The public will play a role in the hiring, although the details will be worked out.
Grover closed by saying there is not a perfect place to raise kids or to be an educator, but Cheney does well. The stability of the board of education and the support of the community are critical, not only to the success he has had, but also to the success of the students.
“There is no Mayberry, Kan.,” he said, referencing the old Andy Griffith TV show, “but there is something near it and I think I’m in it.”