On Monday evening, just before 8 p.m., Anthony Scholze, President of the Sparta Area School District Board of Education, had a special point of order. “After numerous conversations and discussions over the past couple of months, numerous community engagement sessions and even a workshop this afternoon, we are very excited with the work Mr. Russ has done, in leading our district. With that, I would entertain a motion to move the title of Mr. Russ, from Superintendent on an interim basis, to Superintendent of the Sparta Area School District.” Heidi Prestwood made that motion, and Director Todd Wells seconded the motion. The ensuing vote was unanimous.
The very next action by Board President Scholze, was to extend the contract for Mr. Russ, through June of 2025. Director Amy Lopez made a motion, and it was seconded by Heidi Prestwood. It was met with another unanimous vote. Mr. Russ said just a few words, before business carried on about approving grants and donations. “Thank you very much. I am humbled and honored. I will continue to work hard for the district. I am very excited.”
After the news had a few days to marinate, the Monroe County Herald reached out to get some quotes from those close to the matter.
“Sam has made relationships, climate, and culture his priority with the students and staff in our district. His enthusiasm and drive to better public education has been at the forefront of each decision and I truly enjoy working alongside him. We look forward to seeing what Sam will continue to bring to our district and greater community.” - Anthony Scholze, President of the Sparta Area School District Board of Education.
“Sam's passion for creating a positive environment to learn and work is contagious! Sam is a tremendous leader who lives the district's mission every day. We are fortunate to have him guide us through the coming years." – Leah Hauser, Director of Business Services.
“Mr. Russ has changed the culture within the school district to one of positivity, kindness, thoughtfulness and sincerity. He is very visible in the district and is making sure everyone feels valued.” - Cindy Thesing, Nutrition Supervisor, Sparta Area School District.
“Mr. Russ has brought a positive and calming presence that has helped to heal both the school district and the community. Teachers cheered when he introduced himself as the superintendent at the back to school meeting and that kicked off a great start to the school year. As Mr. Russ continues as our superintendent, I look forward to his leadership, his vision for moving the district forward and his positivity.” - Kyla Manske, Director of Instructional Services.
"It's really hard to imagine someone more fit to be our superintendent. At every possible moment, Mr. Russ makes it clear to the high school that he still cares about us as individuals- students and staff alike. It's not uncommon to see him, every now and then, checking in with teachers, to see how they're doing and coming to big games and performances to support us. I especially appreciate his kindness and patience with me at board meetings; he really makes it feel like I belong there as much as anyone else, though I'm just a student. I am thankful for his continued support of our high school- in ways both visible and invisible to us." - Irene Cho, senior at Sparta Senior High School
“I would like to share that Sam is a supportive leader, who is committed to working with all stakeholders, no matter their role, and he always strives to do what is best for kids. From my years of working with him, I have been repeatedly impressed with his dedication, knowledge, and his overall love of interacting with students and adults and running a school, and now the district. He works hard and always does his best, while encouraging others to do the same. His leadership style can be summed up by conversations that always start with "hello" and end with "how can I help support you?" – Erik Forde, Principal, Sparta Senior High School.
Superintendent Russ had a few more words to express, after letting the big news settle for a couple days. “I am grateful and humbled by this opportunity to continue to serve the Sparta Area School District and all of its stakeholders. I am deeply indebted to the many staff and community members who have helped me over the years, as we have worked together in the district. I will continue to work as hard as I can throughout our journey together, as we do our very best in supporting our students, families, staff and community,” Russ said. “The community has been very supportive and I have greatly enjoyed my interactions with everyone, while gaining multiple insights of our District.” - Sam Russ, Superintendent of Sparta Area School District.
Prior to taking the Superintendent role Mr. Russ had been the Principal at Sparta High School, since July, 2008. Erik Forde was named Sparta High’s Interim Principal for the 2022-2023 school year.
The Monroe County Herald would like to thank the Sparta Area School District for their contribution to this article.
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