ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
The new Centre USD 397 superintendent has accepted the challenge of a dual administration position initiated this school year.
Robert Kiblinger, 51, is the principal for kindergarten through 12th grade and superintendent for a district that numbers about 260 students.
“It is huge,” Kiblinger said about the task at hand.
“But, we’re going to make it work. It’s one day at a time. Maybe I’ll develop a schedule, and maybe I won’t develop a schedule. It all depends on what is on my calendar to do each day.”
Growing up in Neodesha in southeastern Kansas and graduating from high school in 1971, he attended Kansas State University and earned a degree in mathematics education in 1975.
His first year out of school, he taught mathematics at Newton High School. From 1976 to 1999, he was employed at Fredonia High School.
“I was a math teacher and then worked through assistant principal, athletic director and, the last three years, I was the high school principal,” Kiblinger said.
Following Fredonia, Kiblinger accepted a position as principal of Council Grove High School from 1999 to the end of the 2003-04 school year.
While employed in education, he earned his master’s in educational administration and administration certification from K-State. In 1991, he obtained his district-level certification.
Home is now in Lost Springs, where he lives in a house provided by the district and located on the high school campus. A divorcé, he has one son, Adam, 23, a graduate of K-State and employed in the livestock business in Fredonia.
Inspired by his math teachers in high school, Kiblinger recognized he had a gift for math and chose to go into the field of education.
“I’ve enjoyed the decision,” he said. “And, of course, that led to administration, and I’ve enjoyed that.”
He chose the position of administrator over the role of teacher for two reasons.
“Advancement in education means a master’s degree and financially, advancement means administration,” Kiblinger said. “You can advance on a teacher’s salary schedule to a certain point and after that, you need to get into administration.”
The second reason was to avert the possibility of monotony after teaching the same classes year after year.
“In administration, every hour is a different hour,” Kiblinger said. “I’m pretty flexible and can adjust to changes. I can balance several things at the same time.”
In addition to being flexible and handling time management, he also believes in being visible.
“I like to be available to people,” Kiblinger said. “I’m a people person but not a conversationalist. I like meeting and greeting people and hearing what they have to say.”
Working at the administration level for many years, Kiblinger was actively searching for a superintendent position when he was accepted as the new superintendent/principal at Centre.
“I was from Council Grove, and this position opened up and was close by,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it ever since. It’s tremendous here. I’m extremely pleased, and the people have been wonderful to work with.”
His job description is lengthy and fueled by one important duty above all others.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, the most important job function is to educate kids,” Kiblinger said.
“And that’s what we’re all here to do. My No. 1 goal is to make sure that’s happening. Everything after that is secondary and supports that effort.”
The biggest challenge he’s facing going into the school year is the budget. One of the ways this was addressed as he arrived in July was staff reduction.
Last year, the superintendent was principal for grades kindergarten through four, and the upper school, five through 12, operated under a second principal. Those positions were shifted to one dual position over the district.
Working with a good support staff, Kiblinger said he relies on the secretaries and head teachers in both buildings to keep administrative duties running smoothly.
As the school year advances, other areas to deal with budget concerns will be addressed, he said. One step in that direction was a school-board retreat the fourth week in August.
“We talked about goals and long-range planning for those goals,” Kiblinger said.
“We’re in the process of finalizing those goals and then, after that happens, we’ll develop time lines” and determine who will be implementing them.
“For a new superintendent like myself, it was very beneficial,” he said about the retreat. “It also helps build board unity with the superintendent-to make sure we’re on the same page.”
Finding time in his busy schedule to enjoy leisure activities, Kiblinger jogs 1 1/2 miles, five days a week, in the early morning hours before school starts.
“I’ve never lived in the country before,” he said. “It’s been wonderful living out here. It’s very quiet, and I’ve seen quite a bit of wildlife, like turkeys.”
He also walks, plays a “little” golf, and reads the newspaper. “I like to read the newspaper to keep up on the local news,” Kiblinger said.
The second week of the school year, Kiblinger made sure he was visible to teachers and students.
“I’ve been in every teacher’s classroom at least twice already this school year,” he said. “I’ve eaten lunch at both buildings, so I’m trying to be out with the students as well as the staff.”
As the year progresses, he’s looking forward to what unfolds on a day-to-day basis, he said.
“With this single administrative position being new to everyone in the district, I think with the personnel in the district, we can make it work.”
Working with the community, he invites tax payers to attend board meetings throughout the year.
“I like people to get involved and the one way to get involved is to become knowledgeable,” Kiblinger said.
“Education is powerful, so I want them to get educated about what’s going on in their district. And I feel I’m a good listener. I want the patrons in the district to feel free to contact me and share their ideas.”