John Phelps, one of four candidates interviewed by the Royalton School Board, will lead the district as interim superintendent for the next year. He’s already found a home in Royalton and is ready to go, effective July 1.
After interviews were held Monday, the Board made its choice and contract negotiations with Phelps were held Wednesday.
Thursday, his hiring was finalized with the acceptance of the negotiated contract.
The one-year contract includes a base salary of $127,341 for the 2017-18 school year, which is the same base salary Supt. Jon Ellerbusch, the former superintendent, would have received. With benefits, Phelps’ total salary package comes to a total of $158,149.60. Since Phelps has his own health insurance plan, the district is required to pay Phelps 50 percent of the highest health insurance package it offers, which amounted to $10,000 (included in the total). He will also have 25 paid vacation and 25 paid sick days available to him.
Phelps just finished a stint as principal on special assignment and a superintendent intern at the Anoka-Hennepin School District. He has submitted his paperwork to obtain his superintendent’s license, which he expects he will receive this summer.
Phelps is excited to be working with the Royalton School District and in the community.
“It’s an opportunity for me — take a look at the school and everything that’s going on,” he said. “It speaks so well of the community.”
Phelps has his roots in a small town, having grown up in a town of 218, located between Madison and Milwaukee, Wis., called Sullivan.
“I told the Board the other day, we had two farms right in the city — one right behind the post office and grocery store,” he said.
It was a “very German” community, he said.
“I loved the culture and working on dairy farms. They are very hardworking people,” he said. “This gives me a chance to go back.”
That desire to get back to a small town was just one of the qualities Phelps had going for him.
Board Director Randy Hackett said the decision was unanimous, although Director Jim Block was not able to attend.
“It was a really deliberate process,” Hackett said. “We interviewed four candidates and for the Board, it was easy to narrow it to two.”
Then it was simply marking each question asked of the candidates as “win, lose or tie” Hackett said, to come up with Phelps as the final choice.
“He really wants to be involved in the community,” Hackett said. “I think that was the thing that really made him stand out,” he said.
Director Dale Lenz agreed that was a key point. “He wanted to come back to a small town.”
Director Mark Petron liked his outgoing personality, he said.
“It seemed like he really wanted to live here and be part of the community and join the Lions Club — I liked that,” Petron said. “He understands community; he grew up in a small community.”
Phelps has experience with fundraising as well, Petron said.
“He was a football coach and did fundraising. In this day and age, fundraising is a big part of sports. I was impressed that he understood fundraising,” Petron said.
All four candidates interviewed were very good, Petron said. “We could have taken any of the four of them … they were all very good candidates,” he said.
Phelps’ wife, Mary, will join him at some point, depending upon whether the Board chooses to renew a contract with him after this first year.
The couple has three grown children and six grandchildren, ages 3 – 15.
Residents will be able to meet the new interim superintendent and tour the new school facilities at open houses at the high school this summer.
After finalizing Phelps’ contract Thursday, the School Board set dates and times for two open houses at the high school.
The first open house, when residents can come in and tour the new facilities, will be held Wednesday, July 19, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
The second open house will be held during the city’s annual celebration, Platte River Day, Saturday, Aug. 5. Tours of the new school facilities will be given from noon – 2 p.m.
The Board plans to advertise the two open houses in a variety of ways, including ads in local newspapers and possible signs along Highway 10.
One frequent question Hackett said he wanted answered for certain, maybe even in any flyers that may be handed out, is how people could obtain a fob to access the new fitness center. It’s simple, contact Middle School/High School Principal Joel Swenson, (320) 584-4000.