The Ottumwa Courier

December 16, 2013

Cardinal superintendent nominated for national award

Courier staff writer

---- — ELDON — In order for a community to thrive and show promise for the future, the right individuals have to take the leadership reins.

Anyone who visits Cardinal Community School District can see the positive impacts that Superintendent Joel Pedersen has made since taking the position in 2010. To show what his hard work has meant to the community, Pedersen was nominated by the Ottumwa Leadership Academy for the John C. Maxwell Leadership Award, and he was informed on Thanksgiving Day that he was a finalist in the education category.

The national award, being presented this year for the first time, will be given to an individual whose achievements, contributions and qualifications make them leaders in their given profession. The top individuals from 10 different categories, including education, business, faith-based, government and others, will make up the finalists, with the most deserving nominee being given the award and grand prize of $25,000.

Pedersen was nominated for all of the work he has done at Cardinal Community School District. In his short time there, Pedersen has presided over many school projects while leading the education of students in the right direction.

“We have a lot of good things happening in our district,” he said. “We have a lot of leadership happening currently … and in turn, a lot of good things are happening for the kids.”

Some of the many accomplishments Cardinal has reached since Pedersen has been on board include getting a $550,000 grant for a FEMA safe room in 2012, seeing the highest graduation rate in the school’s history at 98.51 percent in the 2012-13 school year, increasing open enrollment, leading a Safe School Certification, increasing professional development by 40 percent and winning a Spirit of the Community award for 2013.

With all of those accomplishments, it is easy to see why Pedersen has been nominated for an award dealing with leadership. But, according to him, it is the school corporation as a whole that is behind the success at Cardinal.

“It’s nice to be recognized, but to me, if I am getting recognized, it is reflected on the whole organization,” Pedersen said.

This is not the first time Pedersen has been nominated for a prestigious award. In 2010, while principal of Davis County Middle School, he was recognized as the Iowa Middle School Principal of the Year.

“It’s neat when you try to work hard and do good things and then get recognized. It gives you a little bounce in your step,” he said.

For the John C. Maxwell Leadership Award, Pedersen had to get nominated and then answer questions based on John Maxwell’s published books about being a true leader. From there, a Nominee Review Board, members of the John Maxwell Team and Maxwell himself consider each candidate and make a decision on finalists and an overall winner.

Pedersen focuses a lot on being the best leader he can be and encouraging others to be better leaders, so being nominated for an award dealing with leadership should come as no surprise.

“I do believe that leadership gives you such an avenue to help people grow. That’s my focus,” he said.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh