After an extensive search process, the USD 443 Board of Education announced Dr. Fred Dierksen has been selected as the next Superintendent of Schools. Dierksen takes over following the end of the current school year when Superintendent Alan Cunningham retires.
“I am extremely honored and excited to have been selected as the next superintendent for the students, parents and patrons of USD 443,” Dierksen said. “Dodge City is recognized across the state, as well as nationally, for its many successes in public education while, at the same time, facing many challenges.
Several community forums were held so the board could gauge what characteristics staff and community members were most concerned with in the new superintendent. Representatives from Kansas Association of School Boards and two current superintendents selected several finalists from a batch of applications for the board’s consideration, based on those characteristics. The board then selected three finalists who were interviewed and met the community and staff in a second set of forums.
“Over and over, the board has been impressed with our staff and the community. We had easily over 100 people attend the public forums each day to meet the candidates,” President Lisa Killion said. “We had students who weren’t able to meet candidates at the high school STUCO forum who came to the public forum just for the opportunity to meet the candidates.”
The recent ice storm added some challenges to the process but the final candidate was able to be interviewed on Jan. 17. A decision was made in Executive Session following that interview.
“Our staff scrambled to make accommodations due to the weather. We even had one of the hospitality baskets delivered by a lady in muck boots in the middle of the ice storm power outage,” Killion said. “Many in the Administration office have worked very long hours to make all of this happen. School was canceled, but our staff still showed up to get the job done and to attend the forums. We have an amazing district and we are honored to be part of it.”
Dierksen has spent 14 years as superintendent of USD 376 in Sterling. He was a sixth-grade teacher and three-sport coach in Jetmore, where he then served as K-8 principal/transportation director. His career in public education spans 35 years.
“I look forward to continuing those positives to higher levels, even amid the difficulties that are before all of us as a community, state and nation,” Dierksen said.
He said the one thing he wants the community to know about him is that he cares about kids.
“I will do my best to continue the educational process established, as well as the many traditions this district is known for, and lead it into the future,” he said. “The many phases of the current bond issue makes it very exciting as the process of educating students in this district is changing daily right before our very eyes! I also look forward to being a part of the community and its many aspects.”
Killion said the board was faced with a difficult decision.
“KASB conducted the search for us and did a fantastic job of narrowing down our candidates to three highly qualified finalists; each of which brought with them strengths that our district would benefit from,” she said.
Killion said the decision was unanimous.
“We appreciate all the years that Alan Cunningham has given to our district and appreciate everything he has done, especially in this transition process,” she said. “We are excited to have Dr. Dierksen joining our district.”
Cunningham said he has known each of the three candidates for several years.
“Each of them would have made a fine superintendent,” he said. “I’m happy for Dr. Dierksen and excited for the district and community.”