Directors tab Mike Wells to head Mt. Pleasant Community School District
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Cedar Falls Superintendent Mike Wells has been selected as the new superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant Community School District.
Wells accepted a contract offer from Mt. Pleasant earlier this week and Mt. Pleasant School Board members will meet in special session tomorrow (Friday) at 5:30 p.m. in the high school media center to approve the contract. A welcoming session, open to the public, will follow the meeting, also in the media center.
Wells, a Nebraska native, comes to Mt. Pleasant after a tumultuous nine months in Cedar Falls.
According to news reports, Wells discussed leaving the Cedar Falls School District as early as late January, or just seven months after he began his duties at the district.
However, he changed his mind on Jan. 30 and said he “wanted to battle for his job,” according to a published report in the Waterloo Courier. On Feb. 25, he offered to resign again in a letter to the school board president and school district attorney.
In his letter, published in The Cedar Falls Patch, Wells said, “I do not feel that I have been treated fairly by the board…I deserved better than the treatment I have received.”
Wells went to the say (in an email obtained by The Patch) that the Cedar Falls situation “will virtually end my career aspirations. As long as I’m superintendent, I will have to list that I was asked to resign. I will never be a superintendent in a 3A or 4A school. It’s a huge red flag and I will have a difficult time getting another position and probably have to step out of education.”
He, however, withdrew his resignation during the Feb. 25 meeting.
On Feb. 27, the board considered a motion to not renew his one-year contract, in part because “he failed to maintain the confidence of the board,” the Waterloo Courier reported. Wells asked board members to withdraw the motion, which they did, and he resigned his position. The board voted 5-2 to accept his resignation.
Although it is not clear what caused the strife between Wells and some board members, news reports suggest personality conflicts, a communications gap and philosophical differences.
Wells, however, was not without his supporters. A Facebook page called “Keep Superintendent Mike Wells” has several hundred “likes.” A petition asking the board to rehire Wells had close to 300 signatures. More than 100 supporters were at the Feb. 27 Cedar Falls board meeting in support of Wells.
David Wilson, a parent in a letter to the Cedar Falls board and published in the Courier, said, “We, along with many other parents and community members, are extremely saddened by the fact that we are going to let him leave our community and school district.”
In a telephone interview this morning, Wells, 46, acknowledged he and some board members had philosophical differences on the direction of the Cedar Falls School District. “The direction I was moving the district wasn’t what the board wanted. It was more or less a control issue. I just didn’t want the district to be status quo and I think that is where the strife was. I put together a lot of plans that would have moved the school district.”
He, however, quickly added, that he is looking forward to a fresh start. “My family and I feel blessed to come to Mt. Pleasant and lead an excellent school district and prepare students for the future.”
Through past trips in the area, Wells said he is very familiar with Mt. Pleasant. “It is an excellent community and having a college (Iowa Wesleyan) in the community is a big plus. John (Dr. John Roederer, retiring Mt. Pleasant superintendent is a friend of mine and a colleague. He has always spoken very highly of the district, board and staff.
“I want a board that is would be supportive and all these things make Mt. Pleasant an attractive position,” he continued. “I am really impressed with the community, it is a community in which you feel welcome.”
Ed Chabal, school board secretary, said the district received 64 applications for the position. Five semi-finalists were interviewed and two finalists received a second interview.
Brad Holtkamp, school board president, said he is looking forward to Wells’ leadership in the district. “You could see the passion in him. We (school board) were impressed with his leadership abilities and commitment to student achievement.”
The board president said all five semi-finalists were impressive candidates. “I think we could have gone with any of them and been fine. However, everything clicked with Mike. We felt he was a great fit to carry on the Mt. Pleasant tradition. We all felt he can do a lot of good for us. He is going to be a good fit. John (Roederer) has done a lot of good for us and we feel Mike stood above the crowd.”
Concerning Wells’ short time in Cedar Falls, Holtkamp said initially there was some concern. “I think we had a few reservations before we talked to him, but he was very upfront and honest about it. He was just in a bad situation. Once we had the questions cleared up, it didn’t bother us.”
Wells, the son of a serviceman, spent most of his childhood in Alabama. His family moved to Gibbon, Neb., following his sophomore year of high school. Following high school, he gained his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in history and physical education. He earned his master’s degree from Doane College, his specialist degree from the University of Northern Iowa and will complete his educational doctorate coursework in May at University of Northern Iowa.
Following college, he taught and coached multiple sports in Nebraska before coming to Iowa. He served as secondary principal at Corning for three years before being promoted to superintendent. He was superintendent at Corning for six years before accepting the superintendent’s position at Winterset and serving three years, his last position before the Cedar Falls post.
He and his wife, Karen, are the parents of three children — Randy, 21, a junior at the University of Northern Iowa; Emmy, 18, a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University; and Beth, a sophomore in high school.
The new superintendent will begin his duties at Mt. Pleasant July 1. Roederer has served as superintendent of the district the past 20 years.