Herington Superintendent and former McPherson Middle School Principal interviews for McPherson Superintendency

By Nick Gosnell
March 02, 2015

Herington USD 487 Superintendent and former McPherson Middle School Principal John Thissen interviewed with the McPherson USD 418 Board of Education for the Superintendent vacancy on Monday evening. Prior to that interview, Mr. Thissen had an opportunity for a meet and greet with the public and McPherson Education Association members Monday afternoon.

As part of that gathering, Thissen said, "I'm very excited about the possibility of taking what I have learned the last eight years and applying it into a new challenge, a new opportunity, and there's none better than McPherson."

Thissen noted that, even though he has been gone for eight years, he and his wife consider McPherson home. "We consider McPherson our home largely because our children were raised here, and it was a great place to raise children."

Thissen was McPherson Middle School's principal for 12 years. He said in the gathering that he was a little concerned that he would still be thought of as that principal, and not as an experienced administrator, so in an exclusive interview with Mid Kansas Online's Nick Gosnell, he was asked to give an example of something he had learned in Herington that he would apply here in McPherson.

Thissen said, "When I first went to Herington, they were in process of trying to decide whether they were going to totally renovate the elementary school, or build a new elementary school. In the process, the decision was to build, and so, the bond election that we talked about and tried to arrange for, there were three different bond elections. The first two did not pass, the third one did. But, throughout that process, it was a matter of working with the public, of trying to have community meetings. It was interesting, in a small community, to have over 100 people show up to one of the meetings, to inform them as far as the details of what we are planning. Also, we ended up having, I forget the number, but on a weekly basis, we would end up having luncheons, just sandwiches, but luncheons that would involve, oh a dozen community people that would come in and have a lunch and sit there with me and ask questions. So, the public piece of trying to communicate and work with the public was something that was really different than being a building principal. It really was at a level that was beyond that. It's connecting to the whole community instead of just a particular group."

Thissen is a firm believer in the vision that McPherson USD 418's school board has already cast and in the C3 program.

He said, "I would say that what needs to be done, is much what's being done, and just capitalize on that and continue it. The whole idea that they work off of, of the citizenship, the college ready, and the career ready is most important in preparing students to leave high school graduating as seniors. Trying to make sure that they are prepared for whatever direction they want to end up going. I would say that what the McPherson leadership has done in the last few years is exactly what needs to be continued to develop and work on and refine."

Thissen did say, though, that if he were hired, he would need to take some time to communicate with the community before refining anything.

Thissen said, "Whether it's surveying by written survey or verbal survey, or just to understand through parents and community and staff, and it will take a little bit of time to end up understanding it and refining it. But, I also think it's going to be a matter of the information from the State. The State's going to help in that process, too, of things that we are going to have to do to make sure that we are still in alignment of what's acceptable by their standards."

Current USD 418 Superintendent Dr. Randy Watson is leaving to become Kansas' next Commissioner of Education. He begins his new duties July 1.