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Van Zyl reflects back on first year with SJSD

The superintendent has seen many changes in his short time with the St. Joseph School District.

Posted: Jul 2, 2019 10:58 PM
Updated: Jul 3, 2019 8:31 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- One year ago this week it was the St. Joseph School District turning a new page with the first days at work for then-new superintendent Doug Van Zyl.

Fast forward to today and one year in and Van Zyl is not sitting down on the job. He says the district has made progress in getting out of the shadows of the past, but is still a work in progress.

"We have to continue to do the right things for our staff and our community and move forward," Van Zyl said. "If we hold on to that baggage we're just anchored in the past rather than moving forward."

Van Zyl stepped in just after the board of education made more than $7 million in budget cuts which included the closure of two elementary schools.

More cuts were planned, but under Van Zyl's leadership, the district passed a tax levy increase that will bring in about $7 million per year over the next five years.

 "Everything was out there for people to see where those dollars were going to go," he said. "That's what people asked us to do. Put a sunset on it, put a plan in place that we can see and understand and then come and talk to us about it."

Other than the financial issues--which have been big--Van Zyl says there are a lot of other items on his radar that he would like to address.

"The things that people want to change, whether it's discipline, bullying, some improvements in academics, those things don't happen in just a day. It takes some time," he said.

Facility consolidation and teacher retention are other big issues for the future. However, Van Zyl says he would like to see students, teachers and staff celebrate and be proud of the district they have.

"Our community does a great job of rallying in crisis," Van Zyl said. "What I think we need to do now is just remember that is how we should act everyday. Why should we wait for a crisis or wait for there to be a negative issue for us to rally around when we should be rallying around and supporting each other on a regular basis."

Van Zyl said he is also proud of the school district's new partnership with Metropolitan Community College in taking over much of the programming at the Hillyard Technical Center to help teach and train people to enter the workforce.

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