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New FSD superintendent speaks at rally

Monday morning’s All-Staff Convocation in Farmington’s Centene Center took on the feel of a pep rally for district employees who yelled, cheered and generally had a great time “pumping up” for next week’s start of a new school year. (Kevin R. Jenkins)

Kevin R. Jenkins,

Dr. Kyle Gibbs, the new superintendent of the Farmington R-7 School District, made his first public appearance this week since taking over the reins from former superintendent Matt Ruble on July 1.

Gibbs spoke at Monday morning’s District All-Staff Convocation — basically, a pep rally for teachers, administrators and other district employees — held Monday morning at Centene Center in preparation for the new school year starting Aug. 22.

After welcoming more than 70 new staff members to the school district, Assistant Superintendent Shana Turner said, “I also have the honor today of introducing our new superintendent, Dr. Kyle Gibbs. Dr. Gibbs has been visible in our district for months learning about the Farmington School District and what it means to be a Knight.

“Dedicated, focused, team-oriented, and visionary are all words that come to mind when thinking of Dr. Gibbs during his transition. Farmington has a reputation of tradition, excellence, and being progressive. I am confident that Dr. Gibbs will continue to strive to lead by example and continue guiding our district in a positive direction.”

Addressing the district staff, Gibbs said, “Standing before you today as your leader is both exciting and very humbling. I’m excited for this new chapter in my career and humbled to be able to lead such an outstanding district and group of individuals. In all honesty, delivering a speech in front of a large crowd is definitely out of my comfort zone. I’d much rather be in your buildings, meeting with you one-on-one and having conversations. I look forward to that.”

New Farmington R-7 School District Superintendent Dr. Kyle Gibbs speaks to teachers, administrators and other district employees during an All-Staff Convocation held Monday at the Centene Center. (Kevin R. Jenkins)

Gibbs offered words of thanks to the school board and board secretary, the maintenance and custodial team, the central office support staff team, and Mindy Southern, the school district’s director of communication and innovation, who planned and coordinated the all-staff convocation. Then thanked the entire crowd.

“I know this has been quite a change for the past few months,” he said. “I’ve been in and out of the district, but you’ve been so positive and welcoming every step of the way — from my visits throughout the previous school year and getting called down for a meeting. I appreciate you being good sports. My encounters through the community where you know my face, and I’m still looking like I’m trying to figure out where I’ve seen you before. So, I appreciate the patience there.

“And more recently, I’ve just been randomly stopping in your buildings and popping into your rooms, and you’ve been great sports about that. So, I appreciate your positive outlook, your encouragement, asking about my family. The transition has been great. I see your dedication and action already, and I can’t wait to see you in action with our students. So, thank you to all of you.”

Gibbs said he realized “back to school” brings on many mixed emotions throughout the ranks — from excited, overwhelmed, anxious, uncertain, and more.

“I remember well, being in your shoes, and it always keeps me grounded to go home at night and hear it from my wife’s ‘teacher’ perspective,” he said. “It was in that reflection and listening to her adjustment over the past few days that I thought back to my first 20 years in education before becoming a superintendent to realize that in all those 20 years, I could not pull out one inspiring line of information that one of the many superintendents I worked under said on that first day back,” he said. “If you find out who they are, don’t tell them, like that’s a bad admission for me to make, but they were some great ones, I promise.

“It was in this reality that I realized that, with all this range of emotions and the countless thoughts of how you’re going to prepare for the year ahead, that the words I say are not likely the message that will stick with you this year. So, I assure you I understand that. I remember what it’s like. I am completely OK with that because I believe that, in most cases, actions speak far greater than words, and I want my actions to be the message you remember this year. With that being said, I want to share with you what I want you to see and experience for me this year.”

Gibbs made a pledge to the staff that he would participate in “three actions” during the school year.

“First, I’ll be highly visible. I promise to be present at your buildings, classrooms, special events, professional development, extracurriculars, and community events all throughout the year. Second, I promise to be an effective communicator. I will be on location, reporting out to our community about the amazing work going on for our students,” he said. “I’ll be available during my walkthroughs to address your questions and concerns. I will share district community information in a number of ways. I will strive to ensure that we have open two-way communication where I listen to your perspective in each of your critical roles. Last but not least, I promise to be your advocate.”

Gibbs said he planned to tell the district’s story through his community updates, and “shine a bright light on you during my meetings with people throughout the community, and cheer on the great work that each of you is doing, always being a champion for you and [the Farmington School District]. Maybe this is not the opening remarks with catchy quotes and a list of goals you may have come here to expect from me. It’s certainly not what ChatGPT told me to tell you. However, it is important for me, for you to know that my message is not what I’m saying today, but it is about the way I will serve and lead this outstanding district today, tomorrow, and all year through. We have an exciting year ahead of us.

“Together, we will do great things as we let our actions speak loudly all across our one community.”

Glenda Thurston, the manager of the Farmington High School cafeteria, holds a bouquet of flowers given to her in recognition of a major milestone — she begins her 45th year of working in the Farmington R-7 School District next week. (Kevin Jenkins)

Along with a steady stream of upbeat music performed at the event by Farmington High School’s Black Knight Band, there were also spirited performances given by the FHS cheerleaders and pep squad, as well as the presentation of flags by the school’s AFJROTC.

In addition to the patriotic and motivational portions of the program, the Farmington School District’s “Teacher of the Year,” Tasha Henrich, spoke about working with middle school students who participate in Project Lead the Way and Real-World Scholars.

The convocation ended with the recognition of Glenda Thurston, the manager of the FHS cafeteria, who begins her 45th year of working in the school district next week. She was introduced by Associate Superintendent Dr. Ashley Krause, who praised Thurston for her many years of service. Other district staff members were recognized for their years of service in the district as well.

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