By Barry Dalton
Nick Larson, who has been hired as the Community R-VI superintendent beginning in July, keeps a basketball signed by legendary coach Norm Stewart in his principal’s office at Montgomery County R-II High School.
“I was coaching, and we played in the Norm Stewart Classic,” Larson said. “So Coach Stewart gave a speech to all of the coaches and players, and then he stood around and shook hands, and took pictures, and signed autographs. He’s an amazing man.”
Larson is proud of his experience as a college basketball player at William Jewell, as a high school coach in Sturgeon and as athletic director in Centralia, but he says he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a “sports guy” just because he’s enjoyed some success in athletics.
“I think that sometimes whenever you become a superintendent with a sports background, I think some people want to paint you as a sports guy, but I just want to be a kids’ guy, and do what’s best for kids.”
Larson, who has a master’s and a specialist’s degree in education, is currently working to finish his doctorate in educational leadership at William Woods. He says he’s known since he was in college that he wanted to be a superintendent someday.
“I didn’t know that I was going to apply for a job so soon,” Larson admitted. “When Cheryl Mack decided to retire, it seemed like a great opportunity in an amazing school district.”
Before becoming principal at Montgomery County, Larson also spent time as a teacher, a school transportation director and an assistant principal, so he’s well prepared for his job at Community, but he says he’s also had some great mentors.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with some really amazing superintendents. Whether it was Darin Ford, Jana Holcer, Shawn Schultz, Mike Gray or currently Tracy Bottoms, I’ve worked for some great superintendents. I think they really helped prepare me to be a superintendent.”
Larson says that being student-focused means he will work for “every student, every day.”
“We should focus our efforts on doing what is best for kids and providing them as many opportunities, both in the classroom and with extracurricular activities, as possible,” he said. “As a superintendent, it is my job to open as many doors as possible for our students.”
He’ll wait before thinking about any major changes at Community, though.
“They’re obviously doing a lot of things really well, so I don’t think I need to go in there and change everything right away,” he said. “I’ll see what they’re doing well and see where there are areas for improvement and address those as needed.”
The most important thing, he added, is earning the trust of the community, so he plans to have an open-door policy. Transparency and honesty are important, he said, and that he’s staying visible and making sure that he’s keeping stakeholders informed.
“I’m really excited to get up there and be a part of the Trojan family,” Larson said. “And I appreciate Mrs. Mack and how gracious she’s been in sharing her knowledge and all of the information about what’s coming. Obviously, I’d love to thank the school board again for giving me this opportunity, and I just look forward to getting to work.”