Coon Rapids-Bayard superintendent Rich Stoffers (left) challenges kindergarten student Kally Wiskus during a writing exercise in a visit to a classroom taught by Nicole Meyers. Stoffers has announced that he is resigning after 16 years with the district.
Coon Rapids-Bayard superintendent Rich Stoffers (left) challenges kindergarten student Kally Wiskus during a writing exercise in a visit to a classroom taught by Nicole Meyers. Stoffers has announced that he is resigning after 16 years with the district.
March 25, 2014



Superintendent and elementary principal Rich Stoffers has opted to take an early-retirement package in an effort to save the Coon Rapids-Bayard School District a possible $50,000-plus next year.

"It's been a very difficult and challenging process," Stoffers said, citing the decision as "bittersweet."

"My heart will still be in Crusader nation."

"Financial challenges have been mounting" in the small district, Stoffers explained, adding that the district aims to cut about $400,000 from its general-fund budget for the 2014-15 school year. In order to maintain the quality of the educational programs, he believes the district needs to move toward a sharing agreement for the superintendent position. A sharing agreement would not only reduce the salary cost to the district - by how much depends on salary and time negotiations with the other administrator - but could qualify it for about $50,000 in operational sharing incentives, he added.

School board president Joel Davis has contacted other superintendents about the possibility of sharing the position but said it is too early in what will be at minimum a month-long process to comment on which districts have been contacted.

One of the districts is IKM-Manning - superintendent Tom Ward relayed the request to the IKM-Manning School Board at its meeting last week.

Ward said he doesn't believe a sharing agreement between the two districts is likely since IKM-Manning is already looking to cut one administrator for the 2014-15 school year as it closes one of its three school buildings. However, it does have the potential to save general-fund dollars, and therefore should be considered, he said.

Davis blames the state Legislature for the district's impending loss of Stoffers, citing its "perpetual under-funding" of education.

Iowa spends $1,500 less per student than the national average, said Davis.

"If we had $1,500 more per kid, we wouldn't be making wholesale cuts - we'd be tweaking," he said.

"Rich fell on his sword for us."

Stoffers joined Coon Rapids-Bayard in 1998 as a kindergarten-to-third-grade principal and elementary physical-education teacher. Three years later he became a full-time administrator and took on the position of professional development curriculum coordinator. Seven years ago, he became superintendent.

His wife, Leesa, is a math teacher and volleyball coach in the district. They raised their son, Jake, in Coon Rapids, and will continue to call the area home for at least the near future.

He is proud of the advancement of the district's early-childhood primary program over the last decade, the efficiencies realized by moving all students to one site, and the technological strides of the last few years, culminating with a one-to-one MacBook Air rollout at the middle and high school levels in January.

"We're preparing them for a global work force," Stoffers said.

Stoffers is also proud of the general high quality of the district's programs, ranging from academics to sports, fine arts and other extracurricular activities.

"We hang our hat on the development of the whole child," he said, voicing his hope that the district can sustain those efforts in the future. "Kids have opportunities to get involved in all activities, and they become well-rounded and productive citizens."

Stoffers said he is not sure what comes next. His wife still plans to teach in the district next fall, and he is currently looking for new opportunities - whether as an administrator or teacher at another district, an official with an area education agency or other educational organization, or as a semi-retired part-timer remains to be seen.

"I want to stay active," he said. "I want to work with kids. That's what I love to do."

Davis said this devotion to his students is one of Stoffers' greatest attributes - and a lesson for any one looking to be a leader.

"When he says it's about his kiddos - he always says that, kiddos - he didn't just say it, he lived it," Davis said.

He also credited Stoffers for his ability to recognize and develop leadership in others.

"He will be greatly missed in our district," Davis said.

It is a sentiment Stoffers shares. He said he appreciates the support he has received from colleagues, staff and parents, the friendships formed with local families, the guidance of other area superintendents and administrators, and the pride the community has in its school.

"I've been very challenged, and I've grown," he said. "It has been a great ride."