Mike McGrory.jpeg

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa school board has named Mike McGrory as the district’s next superintendent.

Board members voted unanimously on the selection Thursday evening at a salary of $210,000 plus benefits, pending the results of a background check and his ability to be released from his current contract as associate superintendent of Muscatine Community School District.

McGrory is not a new face to Ottumwa. He served as principal at Evans Middle School from 1997-2000. “He’s got a passion for education and love of his experience in Ottumwa when he was here 20 years ago,” said David Weilbrenner, board president. “He was just comfortable and it felt like he was a part of Ottumwa.”

“We actually had a very good pool of candidates. All four of the finalists were vey good,” said Jeremy Weller, board vice president. “His whole resume, work experience is what put [McGrory] over the top for me.”

Weilbrenner agreed. McGrory’s experience in other communities, including districts larger than Ottumwa with similar diversity, stood out to him.

In addition to his time at Evans Middle School, McGrory has been in his current position since 2016 as well as serving the Muscatine district as high school principal from 2013-16. He also was principal at Central High School in Hinsdale, Illinois, Ames High School principal, and K-12 principal in Lone Tree.

“He’s been principal at three different high schools bigger than ours. That’s a pretty tough job,” said Weilbrenner. “Really, the only thing he hasn’t done administratively is superintendent.”

The job posting had July 1 listed as the start date, but there’s a few steps that need to be taken before McGrory officially takes up the post. He has to pass a background check, which Weilbrenner said had already been ordered. He also needs to formally be released from his contract in Muscatine, and a new contract with Ottumwa will then be signed.

“He did state he’s going to start as close to July 1 as possible,” said Weilbrenner.

The search for a new superintendent began in early May when current superintendent Nicole Kooiker submitted her resignation to take the role of deputy superintendent with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The board hired Ray and Associates to conduct the superintendent search and ended up with more than 30 candidates.

“To be able to get us the pool of candidates we had in the short amount of time we had and working through COVID and social distancing, they did a great job,” said Weller. “We really appreciate their hard work in getting us the pool of candidates that we had.”

“I’ve been through this before,” said Weilbrenner, who was on the board when Kooiker was hired. “It’s a long process but rewarding. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking.”

The board spent time earlier this week conducting interviews with four semifinalists. Then, throughout the day Thursday the two finalists spent time interviewing with various groups from the district and the community, who then submitted their feedback to the board.

“We thank all those folks who took time out of their day to give us their feedback. That’s what makes this process work,” said Weller.

“People took it seriously and gave us quality feedback,” said Weilbrenner.

“I don’t think we could have made a bad choice tonight,” said Weller. “We’re excited to get Mike here to start transforming our district and leading our district.”

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Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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