OTTUMWA — Mike McGrory feels like he’s come full circle.
Ottumwa’s new superintendent left his role as principal at Evans Middle School 20 years ago. “That was pretty early in my career,” he said.
Now, he’s preparing to return to Ottumwa after accepting the post of superintendent Thursday night.
“To have the opportunity to come back to a place I really enjoyed and wanted to come back to, that’s really exciting for me,” McGrory said. “I was an administrator in Ottumwa at Evans Middle School, and I just loved my experience there. My wife and I have an affinity and love for Ottumwa.
“It was kind of like, ‘It’s come full circle for me.’ I couldn’t be more excited about that,” he said of the moment he received the job offer.
He also said with relatives in the Oskaloosa and Pella area, applying for the superintendent position felt right on a personal level. “I just seemed to be the right time for a move like this.”
McGrory has most recently served as associate superintendent for Muscatine Community School District. His prior administrative work also includes Muscatine High School principal, Central High School principal in Hinsdale, Illinois, Ames High School principal and K-12 principal in Lone Tree.
He said he felt like those positions helped him develop skills that will serve him well in Ottumwa. He said the district appeared to be looking for somebody to develop trust, has strong communication skills, strong interpersonal skills, can make decisions collaboratively and empowers others.
“I think those are some skills I’ve picked up,” McGrory said.
Despite his time in Ottumwa, he plans to take his time to get to know the community again when he arrives. He said he’s planning on spending his first 100 days meeting as many people as possible to see what the concerns and goals are for those in the district and the community. “It will be a great way to get to know the district better,” he said. “I really want to become a part of the community again. I take that responsibility very seriously.”
He said he also plans on having in-depth conversations with the board and school staff to determine the biggest challenges the district faces.
He’s also eager to build on Ottumwa’s successes.
“I think Ottumwa has a lot going for it,” McGrory said. “Academically, it’s very impressive that the graduation rate is at the state level.”
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the state rankings had all of Ottumwa’s buildings at either acceptable or commendable. “I think that’s a positive that the district should be very proud of,” he said.
It’s going to be a tight turnaround for McGrory. With outgoing Superintendent Nicole Kooiker announcing her departure in early May, the board conducted the search in less than two months. The official start date for the position was listed as July 1.
McGrory won’t be able to start Wednesday, but he plans on being in Ottumwa soon. “I’m really wanting to get started as soon as possible,” he said. “I’m working out the details right now. I might be able to start July 6 — that’s kind of my goal — so that’s a pretty quick turnaround time.”
In the meantime, he thinks his prior time in Ottumwa will help him acclimate to the role. “I have knowledge of the community, and I’m passionate about seeing the school district move forward,” he said. “My hope is my experiences that I’ve had in other districts, my experience in Ottumwa and my affinity for Ottumwa, I think I can make a big difference for Ottumwa and moving it forward. I would like nothing more than to be able to accomplish that.”