Micah Stauffer strongly believes that every individual is a leader.
The Wicomico County Public Schools Superintendent officially took the reins July 1, succeeding Donna Hanlin, who retired June 30 after serving the county for six years. Since then, the surrounding community has welcomed him with open arms, Stauffer says.
Stauffer has already begun working closely with a variety of community organizations and political leaders. His first two months as superintendent consisted of trips to every school in the Wicomico County Public School District, where he met with principals, administrators, and school staff.
Stauffer also plans to host student and parent forums this fall.
“They are at the heart of what we do every day,” he said. “It is important to ensure that their voices are heard and that they are included in this decision-making process. I want us to include all of our stakeholders, including our parents and students.”
“We are all leaders”
Stauffer is deeply focused on fostering healthy relationships within the community.
“We are all leaders. We influence everyone else in one way or another,” he said. “It goes back to what I said before: to move forward, we know where we have to go and the work we have to do. But, at this stage, it is a question of how we are going to make this work. If we all see ourselves as leaders, influencing others, that’s how we’re going to do this work.
“Not only do we have to be leaders, but we have to be principled leaders,” Stauffer said.
An effective and impactful leader must demonstrate integrity, value collaboration, believe in communication, stand up for great work, promote fairness, empower others, be engaged, show empathy, have high expectations and s ensuring everyone has a voice, Stauffer said in his superintendent entry plan.
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The superintendent is currently in the first phase of his entry plan. This phase, community engagement, will take place by October. The second phase, strategic planning and reporting, will then take place from November to February 2023.
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the 2021 legislation providing billions of dollars in additional funding to schools across the state, will begin rolling out statewide this year. The investment will continue over the next 10 years.
The Blueprint was discussed during Stauffer’s individual school presentations.
A plan is slated for the spring on how the Blueprint for the Future of Maryland will be implemented by the Wicomico County School District. It will address, among other things, early childhood education, college and career readiness, resources for student success, governance and accountability, and diversity among teachers and leaders, among others, who will reshape the future of education for the district.
Outside the classroom
Stauffer, who was chosen from a pool of three finalists, recalls when he was told of his selection.
“I got a phone call from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and obviously I was very excited,” the superintendent said. “However, as excited as I was, it’s also a huge role in the community and it has a lot of It was an honor for me to be chosen to represent our entire team and our school system.
He shared the news with his loved ones: his wife and two children.
“They were as excited as I was,” Stauffer said. “It was truly an accomplishment that we were all a part of.”
Tears clouded his eyes as he spoke of his family and the support they have shown after his rise to the role of superintendent.
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Before interviewing or applying for superintendent, Stauffer, wanting those he loves most to be involved in the process, sat down with his family to discuss the future.
“We had a family conversation,” Stauffer said. “I asked them, is this a road we want to walk together? This is going to bring a lot of changes in our lives as a family.
Eventually, together, he and his family made the decision to pursue this new role.
Stauffer says his children are especially incredibly proud of their father.
“I always tell them, do your best and whatever you do, do it well with the right attitude,” he said, showing framed photos of his children. “I always pushed them, so I wanted to show them that dad was going to do the same.”
Stauffer’s wife, a local pastor, is his greatest motivation and has been by his side every step of the way, he said, since he started as a classroom teacher.
Committed to his vocation
He previously served as Director of School System Finance and Operations since 2019 and prior to that was Director of Secondary Education from 2014 to 2019. He also served as Principal of Parkside High and Mardela Middle and High, as well as Deputy Principal of Mardela Middle and High and Wicomico Middle. Additionally, he taught science and coached at Parkside.
According to Stauffer, growing up, he was never quite sure which direction he wanted to go. When considering the career path he should choose, he couldn’t help but think of the teachers who made a difference in his young life.
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He realized later, after having the opportunity to replace teaching, that the classroom felt like home and that a career in teaching would undoubtedly give direction and purpose to his life.
“Like many of us, I had several part-time jobs and different interests when I was younger. never quite sure which path spoke to me the most,” the superintendent said. “Just being able to walk into a classroom again, it all came back – the fun I had during my own educational experience.”
A career in education, Stauffer believes, is his true calling.
Olivia Minzola covers communities on the Basse-Côte. Contact her with advice and story ideas at [email protected]