BAXTER – Born and raised in Baxter, Josh Russell has always seen the town of about 1,000 as his home. Over the years, the 1998 Baxter BCSD graduate has seen the district change from the Bulldogs to the Raiders to the Bolts, cheering for each class along the way.
But starting July 1, the K-5 principal will be taking a step beyond his hometown as he enters the new role of shared curriculum director for Baxter and Colfax-Mingo Community School Districts.
“The reality is we can save both districts some money and grow their capacity at the same time. That is a win-win. It allows more people to do more things,” Russell said. “In the transition, I hope both districts know that I am going to be here to support all our kids, and all our teachers. I don’t care what town they are from. My passion is around making everyone better.”
Last month, district leaders of both C-M and Baxter came to an agreement to share the position for curriculum director for the 2018-19 school year. Baxter school board unanimously approved the sharing contract Feb. 19 in a 5-0 vote. C-M then followed suit in their rescheduled regular board meeting, voting 6-1.
The Tigerhawks agreed to pay Baxter $47,343.42 per year as part of the 28E agreement – half of Russell’s estimated overall salary. Russell will spend an equal amount of time in both districts, at a 0.5 full-time equivalent. The shared position will bring in $20,193 per year in state funding to each district every year.
“We have been in talks in terms of operational sharing the last few years with different districts,” Russell said. “When the opportunity came about this year, (Baxter superintendent Todd) Martin talked to me about it and I was excited for that. It seems weird, but within school leadership, I appreciate and enjoy the curricular and instructional leadership role.”
According to Russell, he spent much of his time honing his craft in Baxter CSD. After receiving his teaching certification, he spent five years as a joint-art and TAG coordinator for Baxter. After leaving town to teach in Marshalltown and pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership, he found himself back in Baxter teaching art half time and working as a half-time curriculum director.
Shortly after, the Jasper County native moved up to the elementary principal position while retaining his role as curriculum director.
“A lot of times in the principal seat, you are an instructional leader, but you are also a lot of other things, so you don’t get to focus on that as much,” Russell said. “I am going to miss the principal side. I am going to miss that daily interaction with kids and teachers on a very personal level. But the trade off is I hope I can be a resource for both districts in terms of improving teaching and learning in the classroom.”
According to C-M officials, Colfax-Mingo has not had a curriculum director in place for many years. Through this sharing opportunity, Russell said this position will allow the district to better utilize data from assessments, from Iowa to MAP to FAST assessment, and how to improve its professional lesson plans, teaching methods and overall development.
“You go to the doctor and you say you have a stomach ache. They are going collect some data – Are you running a temperature? Is your pulse rate good? Is your blood pressure good? All this data is going to pinpoint what needs to happen to make you feel better. That is the approach I will make with the schools,” Russell said. “We have this set of data about kids that we can use to make some good, sound instructional decisions about kids both at a group and individual level.”
Russell said he is excited to start his role as curriculum director in both schools. He said both districts are showing positive signs of educational growth, and have their own individual strengths. He hopes to use this unique role to take the positives of both districts and implement them in the other.
He said he hopes this shared role will help the two districts grow and take the next step in learning.
“Even though the scope of the work may seem big, there is a lot of the work that is very similar in nature. Even if we are doing a different initiative than Colfax-Mingo is or Colfax-Mingo is doing something different than what Baxter is, there is a lot of crossover where we can utilize resources,” Russell said. “The reality is, we are a little bit smaller than Colfax-Mingo, but we encounter the same drawbacks and benefits from being small.”
The Baxter graduate said whichever district colors he sporst, he said he will be cheering both districts kids on.
“I don’t think I’ll be walking around Baxter with Colfax-Mingo blue and orange on, and I won’t be walking around Colfax-Mingo with purple on,” Russell said. “If it is track, I am probably going to have to wear my Baxter hat because those are the kids I am coaching now.”
C-M superintendent Jim Verlengia said he plans to set up some time to bring Russell into C-M this school year to meet the staff, instructional leaders and begin hitting the ground running. The C-M and Baxter superintendents both told the Jasper County Tribune there are currently no talks to share other positions.
Martin said the district has begun the hiring process to fill the elementary principal position. A job posting for the position has been made, advertising a full-time position.
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org.