To the residents of St. Joseph:

Thank you to everyone who helped welcome our new superintendent, Dr. Doug Van Zyl, during a meet-and-greet event earlier this month. It was a wonderful show of support and unity for our school district and for our community.

Thank you to the Community Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce and the Heartland Foundation for hosting this event. A special thanks to Dr. Mark Laney, Patt Lilly, Steve Johnston, Dr. Julie Gaddie and Charlie Shields.

With great challenge comes great opportunity. As a school district, we’ve had our share of challenges. We also have taken steps to move in the right direction. We now have an opportunity to reshape this district and, in turn, this community. As a board, we need your support to move forward.

Each member of the board looks at it this way: This is not my school district, it is OUR school district. These are not my kids. They are OUR kids. And these kids are the future of our community. Whether a parent, teacher, staff member, employer or employee, a student or retired, we all have a vested interest in the success of the school district.

The start of a new school year is an exciting time and a new beginning. There is a positive energy to the start of this school year under new leadership.

Dr. Van Zyl has experience leading school districts to success. He combines his passion for education with a unique set of skills and an ability to communicate from the boardroom to the classroom to the living room. He embodies the characteristics for which we, as a district, want to be known: strength, intelligence, compassion, transparency, openness and honesty.

The three most important things to Dr. Van Zyl are his family, his faith and his job. This is a testament to his character. All we ask is that you give him a chance to succeed.

We ask that you are patient as we continue to restructure, rebuild and redesign this school district. Together we can accomplish great things. Now is the time to unite, not divide. It is time to start acting like the large school district we are and as the anchor to the entire Northwest Missouri region.

A strong school district is the backbone of a strong community. The foundation of this school district is built on its students. Educated students create an educated workforce. An educated workforce leads to successful business. Successful business leads to a successful and strong community. Each builds on the other to create a strong foundation for success.

It is time to put our focus on what really matters and what will drive this community forward — the classroom, student achievement and creating a 21st century workforce. We must provide resources and educational opportunities for our students to be successful. Education can open doors and opportunity that no one ever thought possible and help end the cycle of poverty in this community.

As a board, we pledge to do our very best for all of our kids, our staff and our community. We have learned from the past and will not forget it. It is time to stop punishing today for what happened yesterday. Instead, it is time to look to tomorrow. A lot of work has been done already and there is still work to do.

You spoke. We listened. Today we move forward as one district, one community, and one voice. Today we invite and challenge you to take the next step on this journey with us.

Sincerely,

St. Joseph School District Board of Education