Topping that list is working on the budget for the upcoming school year with business manager Jerry Hinerman.
“That’s probably what’s been taking up a lot of the time the last weeks,” Huxman said.
Other issues include facility improvements, including the lawsuit filed against the district about the bond vote, although Huxman declined to comment about the litigation.
“Once we have something firm, we’ll talk,” he said.
Regarding the project to locate the transportation center at the former AMPI building, Huxman said those plans are being re-examined.
“We’re reviewing everything that had been talked about earlier,” Huxman said. “That’s really been into focus because of the fire and the change in administration—everything’s that happened. We just determined that we ought to review all the options again to see what’s changed.”
Besides the facilities improvement projects, Huxman said his priorities include continued work on closing the achievement gap, curriculum priorities and getting familiar with the operation in USD 410.
“I want to be able to come and in some sense know where we are with things,” he said.
Huxman is no stranger to Marion County and the surrounding area.
“I grew up on a farm outside of Moundridge,” he said. “Then I went to Bethel College and got a degree in vocal music education—back a long time ago.”
Huxman’s experience as a public school educator and administrator spans more than 35 years.
His first position was teaching vocal music and helping coach football in Halstead. While there, he completed on a counseling degree at Emporia State University.
Huxman has also completed an educational specialist degree in administration from Fort Hays State University and a doctorate in education from Wichita State University.
“After I got that counseling degree, I took a job at Great Bend as a junior-high school counselor for a number of years,” he said. “Then I was an elementary principal in Great Bend and then a principal at the other junior high.”
In 1988, he took the job at USD 408 Marion-Florence as principal of two buildings—grades three though six and grades seven to eight in the middle school at Florence for a couple years.
“Then they asked me if I wanted to be the superintendent, so I was the superintendent and middle school principal for one year,” he said.
Huxman continued as superintendent until 1998.
After Marion, he went to USD 429 in Troy, located in the northeastern corner of Kansas, where he first worked as superintendent, then for the past five years also as principal for the elementary and pre-kindergarten programs.
Collaboration is key
As superintendent at Marion, Huxman said he did a lot of collaborating with Gordon Mohn at USD 410. Huxman said he hopes to continue that approach with area districts.
“I’m open to any kind of collaboration because that’s what in the long run will be the way school districts like (Hillsboro) are going to continue to provide our kids with the type of quality of education they deserve,” he said.
“If we decide to isolate ourselves from neighboring districts, I think in the long run that’s probably not something that will have a positive impact on what we do. I feel strongly that the collaborative thing that was going on here years ago must really be looked at carefully.”
School districts in Marion County already work together on the Technology Excellence in Education Network and the Marion County Special Education Cooperative.
“I think that needs to carry over into general ed,” he said.
Asked what collaborating with general education would look like, Huxman said:
“That’s something I would have to look at. I know that from where I came, it could be done, but here I just haven’t had enough time to really see what it’s like. I’ve been gone for almost 10 years. Things have changed.”
Among those changes are different district administrators.
“There isn’t a superintendent in the county or area that was superintendent when I was here,” he said. “I’m back, but I’m back in a different district.”
Being an interim superintendent offers unique challenges, Huxman said.
“It makes one wonder how hard to push on changes,” he said. “There are certain things that are in place that are not a problem, such as the facilities that (the district is) looking at changing. They’ve got curriculum rotations that are in place.
“But with other things that come up, one’s not in a position of longevity, so how much do you change in the event that you’re not back?”
Huxman said he strives to build consensus.
“I like to gather a lot of information from a lot of different people,” he said. “Does that mean I can’t make the unpopular decisions? I can make them. But I think you’re better off if you can work with everyone and make sure everyone’s as close to the same page as possible.”
He also said he believes it’s important to consider the context before making significant changes.
“I believe it’s important to talk to others, look at what’s there and evaluate that and then as a group—I mean the administrators and the board, whatever persons need to be involved in the decision—need to look at what’s best because the focus has to be the kids and what’s best for the kids,” he said.
Getting well-grounded in the district will be important.
“Coming in, having not worked here before, it’s kind of hard to just say, ‘I know what’s best.’ That’s not how that works,” Huxman said.
“You have to work with people, a certain level of trust has to established and whether we like it or not, everybody does things differently. I have different ways of approaching things. Although Gordon and I are friends, we still approach things in a different way.”
Huxman said he’s committed to continue work that’s already begun, such as finding ways to close the achievement gap with groups of students, improving early childhood services with the preschool program, and making sure facilities are as they need to be.
Regarding his plans beyond this year, Huxman said he’s focused on the immediate future.
“I’m here for a year.”