Dr. John Roederer has no regrets as he ends long education career
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Dr. John Roederer’s love for education is ending where it began.
Well, maybe not ending, but the 20-year Mt. Pleasant Community School District superintendent of schools will leave his office for the last time June 28.
A native of Mt. Pleasant and a Mt. Pleasant High School graduate, Roederer is stepping into retirement with no regrets.
“My 20 years here have been great,” he sized-up. “My wife (Jan) and I have loved it. Sure, there have been challenges, but I wouldn’t do anything differently.”
Roederer, however, has some mixed emotions about retiring. “I really don’t know what to expect,” he began, regarding his future and the last few months of the school year after he announced his retirement plans. “My wife and I have been visiting about it (retirement) that last couple of years, but I don’t know what to expect when it arrives.
“I love my job and the community,” he continued. “I have been blessed with good health and that is why it is a tough decision.”
Wistfully, he pauses for a second.
A twinkle suddenly comes to his eyes and a grin to his face as he relates that graduation is one of the things he will miss the most. “A highlight for me each year was watching the students walk across the stage at graduation. They made it because of the community support from parents and the school district.”
Roederer said he never set a goal of being a superintendent, it just kind of happened. “I knew all along (since his high school days) that I wanted to do something in education. I never dreamed of being a superintendent, I just enjoyed always being in schools.”
Career travels took him from his first job at a Cedar Falls paracoial school to Ft. Madison High School where he was a social studies teacher. His administrative career was launched at WACO where he served as junior high principal. He returned to Mt. Pleasant and was an associate principal at the junior high. His first superintendency was in Winfield-Mt. Union and he was superintendent at Anamosa when Mt. Pleasant called him home — home to stay.
“I was happy at Anamosa and getting along fine,” he reflected. “I received a call from Mt. Pleasant and they asked me to apply. My wife and I sat down and looked at the pros and cons. I never planned on going back (to Mt. Pleasant). However, I felt Mt. Pleasant was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I was very excited and was honored to be asked to apply.”
Twenty years as a superintendent of a district is an extremely long time in the field, especially superintendent of your alma mater.
Looking back at his career in Mt. Pleasant, he said he doesn’t know if being a native son was a help or a hindrance. “I think people are fair to whoever comes into this position, whether they or a native or not. You are judged on what you do. Being an associate principal here before helped regarding the expectations of the community and my prior connections here helped.”
When asked about things he will remember about his stint here, plenty of things come to mind. There was the start of the Mt. Pleasant Community School District Foundation, the technology boom, opening of WisdomQuest, implementing the at-risk program at the junior high school, the increase in advance placement (AP) courses, the start of the culinary arts and pre-engineering programs, the building of the high school, the middle school renovation project, conversion of the old high school into a library and civic center, expansion to the learning areas at the elementary school, the start of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Lincoln Elementary School receiving Blue Ribbon status and the partnerships with the city, county, community colleges and area education agency (AEA) just to mention a few.
“I am really proud of the partnerships we were able to establish with the various governments (city and county), community colleges and agencies (AEA),” he noted. The people have been great to work for. The media (Mt. Pleasant News and KILJ-radio) has been great to work with, they have covered us fairly.”
He also gave a salute to Ed Chabal, district director of finance. “When I came here, we had a solvency ratio of about 1 percent and now we are at about 10 percent. Ed Chabal is just fantastic to work with.”
Over the years the education landscape and community have changed, and Roederer feels the Mt. Pleasant Community School District has changed with the times. “We have been able to maintain high standards and deal with changes in the community. Our free and reduced lunch percentage has gone from 26 to 48 percent in recent year.
“Technology, though, has been the most significant change,” the administrator continued. “Twenty years ago there were 100 computers in the entire school district. Now, we have over 1,000. Technology has been very integrated into the school district. Now, when the Internet goes down, everything stops.”
He announced his resignation in January, giving him “lame duck” status for most of the second semester. He says, however, that his early resignation was a courtesy and never impacted his effort the final five months of his contract.
“When I announced (my resignation) in January, I wanted to make sure the board had an ample opportunity to hire a good superintendent,” he explained. “I never backed off after that, though. I want to make sure everything is in place for the new superintendent.”
So, it’s closing the book on one chapter and opening another. But what will the next chapter include? Roederer says he isn’t sure and does not have many plans. “I don’t really have any concrete plans. My wife and I want to do some traveling and will probably spend part of the winter in Arizona. If the opportunity arises, I would consider a part-time consulting job or teaching on the college level.”
Retirement will also mean spending more time with daughter Jennifer (Stater), a secondary gifted and talented and middle-school language arts instructor in the Mt. Pleasant Community School District, her husband, Darin, and their two children, Hanna and Paige.
Reflecting one last time, Roederer’s thoughts go back to the community. “The entire community has been great to work with. It takes an entire community to make a good school district. Mt. Pleasant wants what is best for its children.”