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Q & A with Dr. Noble
Dr. Steve Noble will become the Seaman School District Superintendent of Schools on July 1, 2016. Noble holds a bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University, a master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University and a doctorate from Wichita State University.
Dr. Noble currently serves as Superintendent of Schools at USD 410 in Hillsboro, KS. He has held the position since 2009. Prior to becoming a superintendent, Dr. Noble served a variety of administrative roles in Haven USD 312 that included activities' director, assistant principal, principal, and director of curriculum and instruction. He previously taught middle and high school industrial technology in Rose Hill, Great Bend, and Osceola, Missouri.
How long were you in the classroom before moving into an administrative position?
I taught six years prior to moving into administration; one year at Osceola, MO, two years at Great Bend, and three years at Rose Hill. I remember one of my teaching professors at Pittsburg State telling me I should consider going into administration some day. When the assistant principal position opened at Haven in 1997, I thought, ‘Why not?’
I really never thought about getting into administration once I began teaching. I really enjoyed teaching and coaching. In fact, there was a time in my life when I thought I'd become a college coach, except I really didn't enjoy sleeping on the film room floor as a graduate assistant for the Eastern Illinois Football program. However, I feel my coaching and teaching background prepared me well for administration.
As coaches, we were in the public eye quite a bit and our decisions were scrutinized frequently. The same is true for administration. As a teacher, I taught industrial tech (shop class), which didn't have the focus it has now in terms of being a critical piece to college and career readiness. During that time, it often was a place for struggling students to gain a workplace skill and keep them from dropping out. Overall, working with my students and coaching athletes helped me improve on meeting the needs of all types of students, and parent/public communication skills.
Please tell us a little bit about your family. Are they excited about the move to Seaman?
Honestly, leaving Hillsboro was a tough decision for us. It has been our home for the past seven years and we're very involved in the community. For my daughters, Hillsboro has been the place in which they've grown up, but they are pretty outgoing and looking forward to moving to Topeka and making new friends. It's bitter sweet for my wife Gita and me. We have good friends and enjoyed our time in Hillsboro, but we are really excited for the new opportunity at Seaman. We've already met so many nice folks who have made us feel welcome.
Gita has been an educator for about 24 years. Most of those years were spent teaching middle school math. She began in USD 259 Wichita at Truesdell Middle School. From there, she transitioned to Wichita Collegiate which was her alma mater. She served as the middle school dean of students at Collegiate for seven years. From there, she and I were married and she taught middle school math at Haven, Mt. Hope, and Hillsboro for the past 16 years.
Gita will be the new College and Career Ready Internship teacher at SHS next school year. She is a dedicated educator. She is a kid first person who builds strong relationships with her students. She is super excited about her new challenge and has already begun making contacts in Topeka for the program.
Our daughters are involved in choir, band, guitar, swimming, volleyball, basketball, track, softball, and theater performances. They are excited for the variety of school classes and activities at USD 345. They all enjoy school and it's gratifying and important to us that they do well. Our girls enjoy performing and competition. As you can imagine, most of our time is spent traveling to their various school and community activities. We expect that will continue in Seaman as well.
What attracted you to the Seaman School District?
As I've grown in the role as a superintendent, I've been asked to serve on a few state committees. I met Mr. Mathes who always seemed to be in charge of something or another. I was impressed with his ability to lead and articulate a vision for our superintendent's organization. He was the first person that drew my interest to Seaman.
Seaman has separated itself from other public schools in the practical application of the definition of college and career readiness. With the success 101 classes and the high school internship program, it is exciting to see how the vision at Seaman is taking shape. I also learned quickly how proud the people are of the Seaman district. It didn't take long for me to understand the feeling of family and togetherness that the Seaman community feels for each other. They are proud to be Seaman Vikings and we are glad to be joining the Seaman family.
From your perspective, what is the job of a superintendent?
The most important role for the superintendent is to carry out the vision, mission, and goals of the school board. The superintendent must also be keen at understanding the differing perspectives that are bound to exist among our staff and community and build consensus in a way that best serves the students of USD 345 going forward. To be most effective at understanding the community and developing trust, the superintendent should be visible, active, and involved in the community. Trust emerges when the leader's talk and actions line up. A good superintendent always puts "students first" in every decision (s)he makes.
What are some of your greatest professional accomplishments?
I am most proud of how USD 410 came together as a board and leadership team to improve our district in times of incredible financial and enrollment challenges. During my time there, we completed the final two bond projects approved prior to my arrival: the collaborative football stadium with Tabor College and the district office and bus barn facility. We began a new 1:1 laptop initiative in 2009 for grades 6-12. We started all-day kindergarten in 2014. We’ve begun a farm to school initiative at our elementary school. We combined our staff at Hillsboro Middle and High school to maximize efficiency with our teaching and learning. By doing this, we began to shift how we teach from isolation to collaboration. We also adopted a learning by doing philosophy which encourages all of our teachers to incorporate projects in their lessons to maximize student engagement and real life applications. Hillsboro High School has 22 approved CTE pathways. This is remarkable for a school of 160 students. We also were one of the first districts in Kansas to fully implement Project Lead the Way (PLTW) in K-12. PLTW is a nationally recognized STEM program focused on project based learning.
Last month, Hillsboro High School was notified we received the Governor's Achievement Award. This award was given to the top 5% of high schools in the state and only 11 were recognized. Hillsboro does not focus at all on state assessments so this achievement is more about the students' abilities, outstanding teachers, rigorous academic programs and a caring community than it was about Hillsboro preparing for the test.
Finally, I am proud of the collaboration that exists between USD 410, Tabor College, and the Hillsboro community, including our partnership with the community foundation and local dentist office to offer dental care for underprivileged kids who otherwise would not be able to get the care they need.
You will be the first ever Superintendent of Seaman Schools hired from outside of the district with a very new administration team. How do you feel this fresh perspective will be advantageous to USD 345?
Talk about pressure...On the one hand, with having all new administration, or relatively new administration, we should be mindful we of losing some of the appreciation for the Seaman way of doing things. As I mentioned before, the history of the community and family type atmosphere seems to be an important piece to the success of Seaman USD 345. It will be important for us to hold fast to the history that influences the goodness about our community and school district. At the same time, having so many new folks will provide the district with the opportunity for new ideas to emerge. New ideas can help our community and school district continue to grow and improve as teaching and learning continues to adapt in the 21st century. I know that to really have the positive impact we hope to have, we must be fully engaged in the Seaman community and not simply "work here." We must lead by being Seaman Vikings through and through.
Can you describe the relationship you hope to create with the Seaman Community?
I am beginning meetings with USD 345 administration and teachers in April. I will continue meetings with building staff, parent groups, the business community, civic groups, and students once I come on board, July 1. All of these meetings will occur during my first 100 days in the district. I am asking three questions of all of the groups to help focus our discussions:
1. What do we do well?
2. What challenges or concerns do we have?
3. What changes and/or solutions should we consider going forward?
I do get a sense of the small community feel that exists at Seaman. I've spent much of my life in communities where the schools were the centerpiece of community activity and pride. I look forward to that continuing in Seaman.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new position? What will a successful first year look like to you?
Right now, I'm looking forward to getting settled in Topeka. Our family will be split during much of June with Gita and the girls in Topeka while I finish up in Hillsboro. Once I'm settled with my family, I look forward to meeting the staff who work throughout the summer at Seaman. I plan on doing a lot of listening to responses about the three questions mentioned earlier. I will enjoy meeting new people and getting a feel for the district.
The successful first year will result in the board of education, staff, and community gaining trust and confidence in me. I believe strongly in keeping our focus on the vision the board previously adopted. I hope to report that our 1:1 laptop initiative was a big success. I also expect to see expansion of career and technical education pathways at Seaman High School including plans to implement engineering, computer science, and biomedical pathways. Finally, I expect to have initial plans on expansion of early childhood programs in the district.
Do you have any summer plans before the start of the school year?
We have a family reunion in June. Other than that, our summer will be spent acclimating to the Seaman district and getting our kids involved in the many camps and activities offered by Seaman and the Topeka area organizations.
Which areas of education are you most passionate about?
I believe the investment in early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make as a school district. Research is pretty compelling about the positive impact quality early childhood education has on the students and communities in which they live. Efforts like Parents as Teachers, Head Start, Universal PreK, all-day kindergarten, and strong MTSS programs in primary grades at our elementary schools are paramount to our students' success going forward. I also believe emphatically in learning by doing and hope to see efforts made by every teacher in our district to expand our project based learning opportunities for our students. I anticipate having dialog about incorporating PLTW courses in our elementary, middle, and high school to provide a rigorous STEM project based learning curriculum throughout our school system.
You’re currently very active on Twitter. Will that continue to be a good way to follow you?
Yes, this is a good way to follow me. My twitter handle at Seaman will be @StevePNoble and I also have a Facebook page and a blog. My blog is 2experiencelearning.blogspot.com.