Warrens New Superintendent


Matthieu Weinberg, Contributor to Scratch Paper

Amidst the hecticness and chaos of the 2021-2022 school year for the Warren school administration and staff, a sense of uncertainty persisted when Warren was to hire a new superintendent the next year. After dealing with mask mandates, constant and increasing COVID cases, and everything in between, Warren elected to hire Dr. Danny Woestman as the new superintendent following a very strange year. Fast forward one year later, and the school year is looking much like how it used to, with mask mandates lifted and COVID all but forgotten. One thing remains, however, this being Dr. Woestman’s hiring, as he is still running strong in his somewhat newfound, but very familiar, role. Before finding his position at Warren, Dr. Woestman worked as a superintendent in Belvidere, IL.  Dr. Woestman, hailed from Northern Illinois University after receiving a Bachelor’s from Brigham Young University, he has a background in administration as well as teaching. According to Dr. Woestman, his shift from teaching to administration came from when he had a “really tough situation come up in [his] class… [to which he] had a really good assistant principal that helped [him] through that.”  This event helped him understand that he “wanted to help other teachers be great teachers, instead of just being a great teacher [himself].” Regarding prior administration experience, Dr. Woestman stated, “I was at a school district in Belvidere, the Belvidere school district, and we have about 8000 students in Belvidere, and we had been going through a very similar process, and our student experience was very similar…”, to which he furthered by adding that he “just felt the transition was very normal” from Belvidere to Warren.
During his first year at Warren, communication was key. “A strength of Dr. Woestman is his ability to listen to and value the input of our school community”, stated Warren Almond principle Rob Parrot. “He has organized a process to gather input from students, staff, parents, and community members. In that process he is developing a long range strategic plan that will guide the work and focus of our district.“ Mr. Parrot further described how this process, “should provide meaningful outcomes, ownership of the work, and accountability to make improvements throughout the many programs we provide”. The theme of communication persisted, as Mr. Jecmen, the President of the teachers union, also commented on Dr. Woestman’s strength in communication. “I think he’s brought our staff together in a way that we probably haven’t been in in a very long time,” stated Mr. Jecmen when speaking of the best thing Dr. Woestman has done in his short time thus far.
Another catalyst towards the view of Dr. Woestman is the passing of the referendum, which “has allowed him a great opportunity to seek more input and voice with decision making,” according to Mr. Parrot.  Mr. Jecmen shared a similar view, citing “budgetary issues” and “referendum issues” as factors in need of reparation, to which Dr. Woestman has done “really, really well”. Other tangible matters needing attention, such as a new contract between the school board and teacher’s union, showed the strength of Dr. Woestman’s ability to compromise and collaborate. “[Dr. Woestman] recognizes the importance of our union, he recognizes the very positive role we play with our community and of course with our students.  I think Dr. Woestman’s just been a wonderful partner so far in working collectively with us,” stated Mr. Jecmen.  Mr. Parrot agreed, as he remarked, “how the school is improving by allowing more input and voice in the decision making.” Collaboration is a driving force for Dr. Woestman and among the most important things he’s learned in administration, as he stated, “the most important thing [he’s] learned over the years is how valuable it is to involve lots of people in decision making, so I really hope to increase the amount of voice we give students here at Warren, and I think we will make better decisions if we create ways to, on a regular basis, involve students in really important decisions.”
Regarding the teacher’s union, Mr. Jecmen seemed to believe the union will be more than stable, as he states, “when we know that we have an administrator that is cognizant of the role our union plays and wants to work with us, that just makes us more excited to work with him as well.” Adding to this, Mr. Jecmen stated, “if there are differences, and there will be, we know that he means well, he knows that we mean well, which means that we can find answers to our differences quite easily.” This understanding between Dr. Woestman and the union appears to bode well for the signing of a new contract, which Mr. Jecmen expresses his optimism for. “We think it’s gonna go better because Dr. Woestman is a real, very genuine individual who doesn’t want there to be differences, doesn’t want anything to be nasty, and we don’t either,” voiced Mr. Jecmen. The current item at hand is the signing of the contract, and the sentiment is that it will go better than the last signing did pre-COVID.
For Mr. Parrot, the availability of staffing and resources to students is what needs to be improved the most. He does seem optimistic in this happening, as he stated, “I am confident that he will have a plan that allows for more staff and resources to be available to our students which is a needed improvement since we have had so many staffing reductions the past 5-10 years. Having more staff, better provides mental health resources, lower class sizes, and increases the opportunities for our students to get the academic support they may need.” In terms of what is already improving, the theme of student voice continues, as the principal believes “the school is improving by allowing more input and voice in the decision making process,” much like what he thinks Dr. Woestman’s approach prioritizes. This improved voice “should lead to a shared responsibility for future goals and give the school a common understanding of the work we are focused on in the upcoming years,” according to Mr. Parrot. Overall, the response is overwhelmingly positive, as Dr. Woestman is shown to be more than capable of running, and improving, this school. Motivations and prioritizations are made crystal clear for anyone to see, and the recovery from the COVID lockdown is virtually complete.  In the short time Dr. Woestman has been the superintendent of Warren, he has already made a lasting impression on staff, and over the course of his tenure the impression is sure to spread to families and students through his goal of increased voice and involvement.