PITTSBURG — On Thursday, the community had the opportunity to speak to Rich Proffitt — the second candidate for the Pittsburg USD 250 superintendent position.
Proffitt is currently the Superintendent of Schools at USD 413 Chanute Public Schools.
He came from a town in western Kansas called Tribune, where the graduating classes were 11. He didn’t know much about southeast Kansas until someone shared an open position in Chanute, where he has served as Superintendent of Schools for three years.
“Learning about it intrigued me, and poured in more interest of the area, then I heard about the opportunities here which are tremendous,” Proffitt said.
Before going to Chanute he was the superintendent of USD 306 Southeast of Saline where he served for four years.
Proffitt is in his 27th year in education. His career began in USD 200 Greeley County Schools as a teacher and coach, then he went on to USD 487 Herington Public Schools where he was a middle school social studies teacher and high school coach. After his tenure in Herington, he moved to Eudora where he served as a middle school social science teacher and coach. Proffitt has served on multiple curriculum committees, school accreditation committees, and sponsor of student organizations. While in Eudora he served as principal at Eudora Middle School.
During the meeting, community members asked Proffitt questions about his time in his current and past districts.
A community member asked why he moved to different districts often, including why he was considering USD 250.
He said his “boss” is tired of moving, plus “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Another person asked him about having little elementary school experience and what he does to make a presence in USD 413’s elementary schools.
Proffitt said he stays connected with elementary teachers and “when I have a bad day I just go to a kindergarten class, that will take care of everything,” he said.
Proffitt received an award for decreasing the achievement gap of low performing students in 2016, a community member asked him how it was made possible.
He said it took a lot of hard work and good staff who looked into their curriculum processes and “took stock of what they were teaching and what needed to be improved.” They then assessed the data to find what the students needed and already have. The teachers also focused on enrichment.
Another community member asked about Proffitt’s background when it comes to business and education. Proffitt said in Chanute, they do their best to get students out in the community and work to build relationships between the two groups. For example, he said, new lockers and various other structures were needed at the middle school. The school worked in tandem with the construction trade school and a local business to build them. He said it “put students in the workplace.” Students also connect with businesses through community service. Sometimes, Proffitt said, businesses even visit classrooms for presentations.
Similar to USD 250, USD 413 Chanute Public Schools also have a college they collaborate with, Neosho County Community College.
In light of the recent “All School Walkout,” someone asked how Chanute handled the “event.”
The students used the time to honor the victims, listing each victims’ name and a short biography, Proffitt said.
He said the recent events have given an opportunity for students to learn about current events and to talk about Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate training, for which he is a qualified trainer.
“The kids need a voice,” he said. “The kids, if they are concerned about it, that's a positive step because they are the ones who are going to see the social media posts, they are the ones who are going to see the conversations first.”
After being asked about his thoughts on extracurricular activities, Proffitt said “I love all of them.”
“Research shows students in extracurricular activities flourish … it is the cheapest at risk program at school.”
Proffitt was also asked about his leadership style. He considers himself “approachable.”
He said he doesn’t like the top-down model in leadership and prefers a more collaborative approach.
A community member asked how he handled the biggest challenge he had encountered.
For him — after only two months on the job in Chanute as superintendent — it was when a student’s parent complained about a picture entitled “The Head of Christ,” which had hung on the wall for over 50 years at the middle school. After the parent sent it to the Freedom From Religion Foundation the district received a letter about taking it down and they have shared their report with several news media, where the district was then thrust into the spotlight of national news.
“We had one message, and that one message came through me,” Proffitt said. “I’m the face of the district and the representative of the board of education.
“I told them every move I was going to have. I had two points, I stuck to those two points and that was what everybody needed to hear and I didn’t waver from those two points.”
The Pittsburg USD 250 Board of Education was expected vote on which candidate will receive an extended offer Thursday evening. The selected candidate will be announced at 4 p.m. on Friday during a press conference at the board office.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.