Focus on Excellence – It’s Been a Great “Run”

I’m often asked by friends and family, “How are things in Waukee?” My response has always been, “It changes every day!” I also tell new staff when they come to Waukee that if they aren’t comfortable with change, this can be an unsettling place. Change really is a constant theme, due to the growth all around us. I’ve likened the superintendent job in Waukee to running a 100-meter dash. The fact is, in Waukee, you really don’t get much of a chance to catch your breath. I think it’s time for me to catch mine.


David J. Wilkerson, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools

After 12 years serving as superintendent here, and 22+ years of service to the district in various capacities, I have notified the Board of Education of my intent to retire/resign effective January 31, 2017.

I’ve been having conversations with the Board of Education around the timing of my exit for a while now. When I assumed the role of superintendent in December of 2004, it was a mid-year transition, and worked very well from a succession standpoint. That is part of the rationale for a mid-year exit for me. The School Board will have some decisions to make as to what that transition looks like, but I am confident that with a nine-month lead time it will allow for a seamless one.

Why now? I’ve known for some time that I wanted to try to do something different. One more career change, before I retire completely. While I don’t have any firm plans yet, I believe if I’m ever going to make a change, I should do it while I still have something to offer. I’ve tried to be very thoughtful and strategic around the timing of my exit. The Board has a number of things they have asked that I complete prior to leaving. These all lend themselves to the mid-year time-frame.

The district finances are in good shape, despite the stresses and constraints placed on our general fund budget by the Iowa legislature. Our financial solvency ratio is a healthy 9%. The program cuts approved by the Board in January were preemptive to not place the district in a negative position down the road, as we anticipate more austere funding from the state. We are securing sites for the next two facility projects, an elementary to open in 2019 and the second-high school to open in 2021. Our educational program is exceptionally strong.

Fresh eyes on the district will be different, but I believe positive. Different doesn’t mean less-than. It just means different.

I originally came to the district in July of 1994 as a 2/3-time Curriculum Director. The total PK-12 enrollment for the district was approximately 1,200 students. We had 85 certified teachers and we graduated 68 seniors that following spring. The following year the board made my position full-time and changed my title to Director of Instructional Services with responsibilities in the areas of curriculum and instruction, human resources, construction, purchasing, buildings and grounds, budgeting, and technology. I remained in that position 1995-97. In December of 1997 (enrollment ~1,700) my title was changed to Assistant Superintendent, upon completion of my Ph.D., but my job duties did not change.

I assumed the role of Superintendent of Schools in December of 2004 with a district enrollment around 4,000 students. When I leave the district next January, we will be serving around 10,000 students and have 700 certified teachers on staff…it’s been a wild ride. We will have opened 13 new school buildings during my tenure, with over a dozen other construction projects to serve the ever-growing student population. Most importantly, students have received a high-quality education and ample opportunities to participate in a myriad of extra and co-curricular activities. Students have been, and I’m confident will continue to be, well served in a student centered culture that focuses on the whole child. Our students have been our unwavering focus.

A friend asked me what I hoped my legacy would be at Waukee. I honestly never really have thought about a “legacy”. I have been privileged to work with the most awesome teachers, administrators and support staff anyone could wish for. My sincere hope, is that when people look back, they will say “Waukee is better, because he was here”. I’ve been blessed to have had this opportunity, and I truly mean it when I say thank you to all of you for it.

Go Warriors!