Opinion: Bollinger, Laver leave legacy of stability and service
Two school superintendents in Linn County bid their school boards and principals and official farewell on Monday, June 12. Although on paper both are retiring from the education system in Kansas, both are continuing to work in the field.
Rex Bollinger, superintendent for Prairie View, will be headed to be superintendent at Rock Port R-II District in Rock Port, Mo. Pleasanton Superintendent Travis Laver will stay in Pleasanton but has already signed on as a contractor with the Greenbush educational consortium as a school budget consultant.
A graduate of Jayhawk-Linn High School, Bollinger has had a long history with Linn County, serving as a teacher and coach before becoming the principal of JLHS. After a stint as superintendent in northeast Kansas, he returned as an interim superintendent following the upheaval left by his predecessor Chris Kleidosty. He remained in the Prairie View post for seven years
Laver has been more of a company man, spending almost all of his educational career in the Pleasanton district, first as a music teacher, then as a transportation director, and then as an administrator. He has been with the district for more than 30 years, 13 years as superintendent.
Laver’s record of working for the same school district is remarkable for two reasons. First, the job of superintendent is stress-filled, no matter what the size of the school district. More often than not, the lure of districts where lack of money is not a problem is too strong to resist.
Second, Laver didn’t just take one giant leap from music teacher to superintendent. He took on administrative tasks in a variety of areas – including transportation and information technology – that helped him prepare for the top job.
His relatively long 13-year tenure as superintendent broke a cycle set by a string of administrators before him who stayed a year or two before moving on. Laver’s dedication to the district helped stabilize the district, which in turn gave it a chance for it and its staff to grow.
Bollinger followed a more traditional path from high school administrator to superintendent through relocation. His decision to take the temporary job as superintendent for Prairie View was fortuitous.
Once he took the helm, things began to click – both with the board and the staff and the community. And while he served six years as superintendent for Prairie View, he nonetheless returned the district to normalcy after the upheaval of the Kleidosty era.
Their replacements bring experience with them, however, there will be a learning curve. Don Epps, who will replace Laver, brings building-level administrative experience as well as a high level of energy and passion for education.
Chris Johnson, who will become the first woman to hold a superintendent’s post in Linn County, brings a solid résumé and track record from the district she heads in Missouri. Even before her contract begins in July, she has been working with Prairie View as she prepares to replace Bollinger.
It’s impossible to be superintendent of a school district and not ruffle any feathers. There will no doubt be people who won’t be sad to see Laver and Bollinger leave. But they are in the minority.
The rest of us, though, should be grateful that there are people like Bollinger and Laver who are dedicated to making sure that our rural students receive the best education we can afford to give them.