David Ewald is no hired gun. He isn’t riding into town with a massive ego or agenda he’s going to force-feed anyone. He’s not looking to put a big, bold stamp on the Greenfield School District announcing he came and went.
Instead, Ewald, a former longtime superintendent in both Denmark and South Milwaukee, sees himself as a man with a niche. And it just so happens Greenfield is in need of someone with his skill set and expertise.
Ewald was hired as the district’s interim superintendent earlier this month, and will bridge the gap between former superintendent Conrad Farner, who resigned in January, and the future leader of the district.
“I don’t want to present the image that this school district is going to be built around me,” Ewald said. “They will be hiring a highly competent person, who hopefully, from his or her perspective as well as from the school district, will be around for many, many years.
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Ewald, who retired at the end of the 2009-10 school year, said he will keep the district moving forward for the remainder of this school year and manage its day-to-day business, keeping students and the educational system in the forefront of any decisions he makes.
“I think we’re in a good place,” he said. “I think I can be of help to this school district and I really do want to be. It’s a good match. … This is who I am.”
Greenfield Patch spent some time with Ewald at the district’s central offices on Tuesday and found out what he hopes to accomplish over the next four months.
Patch: Do you have any specific goals you want to accomplish in the next four months, or is the focus more on maintaining the day-to-day operations?
Ewald: We’re farther along in reacting to the new structures created by Act 10, but there are loose ends, not just in this school district but in other school districts as well. I want our staff to feel secure in their jobs, to feel respected and to feel appropriately supported. If I can leave here with them feeling that way, I would think that I did a really good job. I also want the elected officials in the district to be well-informed and effective partners in that process. I know they want to be.
Patch: Do you think anything you do or any impact you have will be noticeable to the public, or will most of your influence be behind the scenes?
Ewald: One of the things we want to have accomplished is to have a budget for next year in place. And as the budget falls in place, there will be things that people will notice possibly. … We have a $45 million budget, and obviously that has a lot of parts in it. Those pieces might be noticed.
Patch: Now that you’ve met key stakeholders and district members, what do you feel they need or want both short-term and long-term in moving forward?
Ewald: They want the highest-performing school district they can possibly create. That’s unanimous. They want to be part of whatever it takes to get that to happen. They want an end to the large turnover in certain staffing positions. That includes administrators, principals, central office and some difficult teaching positions as well. The idea is to create a place where people want to be and where they’ll stay. We also want to make sure they’re the very best.
Patch: After spending 11 years in Denmark and 11 in South Milwaukee, you spent 13 months (the 2011-12) school year as an interim superintendent in Kewaskum. How did that role prepare you for this one?
Ewald: It was much more difficult there because of the length of the time I was there. It was a long commitment on their part and my part, and there were some huge changes going on. Act 10 impacted a lot of things as far as unions are concerned and the relationships with management and people who do the everyday work were dramatically changed. … They were radical changes that no one was prepared to address, at least no one I knew. This year, those things are in place, so it’s building on the good work that people did last year here. It makes it, not easier, but it’s farther along.