Alta-Aurelia welcomes new superintendent

Friday, June 14, 2019
Alta-Aurelia Community School District welcomes William Walters, former superintendent of Climax-Shelly School District in Minnesota, as he starts in July. /Photo submitted

Alta-Aurelia Community School District: meet your new superintendent, William Walters.

The Burlington, Iowa, native is glad to be back in his home state, and is looking forward to filling the big shoes left by retiring Superintendent Lynn Evans.

A former special education teacher at Burlington High School, Walters found his passion for education while serving special education students in his sister’s elementary classroom as a young man.

“You want to touch lives and be a part of building things that help kids succeed,” he said so. “That was my interest in administration.” The new superintendent has served in the same capacity at Climax-Shelly School District for five years. The district is about a seven-hour drive from Alta, tucked away in northwestern Minnesota, north of Fargo, N.D.

He is currently working on a dissertation focused on inclusion of special education students in general education classrooms for his Ph.D. at the University of Northern Iowa.

“I’ll see if I can wrap that up soon,” he chuckled.

Before Climax-Shelly, he served as a special education director for an area education agency, as a principal in Maquoketa High School and as an assistant principal at Western Dubuque High School.

“We wanted to come back to Iowa,” Walters said. His wife, Elizabeth Snyder, has family around Hartley and Sanborn.

His second-grader, Kathryn; fifth-grader, Gracie; and high school junior twins, Ella and Gabe, will all go to school in the district.

“I know that this is a really good school district,” he said. How? The most recent needs assessment matched everything that faculty and parents said about the district through the interview process.

“It was pretty exact,” he said. “There was no doubt that the staff, the students, the administration are proud of this district, and I really want to maintain that.”

The new face comes in a little bit after Evans guided Alta and Aurelia through a reorganization hailed as an example of success by other districts around Iowa. With experience at a rural district, he knows the challenges country schools face today, and counts himself privileged to follow “a great leader” who has been shown universal respect in the district.

“Compared to Climax-Shelly, Alta-Aurelia would be considered a big city,” Walters said. Under his leadership there, the district was able to increase enrollment by 35 percent through open enrollment as other high schools closed.

“If you do things right, you’re going to attract kids,” he said. “Things will work out.”

As neighboring Storm Lake public schools burst at the seams with plans for relief obscure, nearby students in Buena Vista County may pose an opportunity for Alta-Aurelia as it faces long-term projections of flat or declining enrollment on a horizon of rural depopulation in many towns.

“There’s always a situation where people like smaller more than bigger,” he said.

But on the other hand, if you’re losing students, he knows the need to get to the bottom of it.

As supplemental state aid continues to lag just at or below the rate of inflation year over year, keeping a tight belt on the budget may be key to survival, as well.

“You have to match your budget with your needs and examine where you invest your money wisely,” Walters said. “At the same token, you want teachers to take risks and try new things, but make sure you’re putting resources where they count.”

Walters is eager to meet the proud parents, students and staff in the district—so keep an eye out for him. He starts July 1.