District News Update: Thank you, Superintendent Hopkins, for Your Dedication to Educational Excellence and Our Community

On behalf of the Natrona County School District, we would like to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to Superintendent Steve Hopkins for his dedication and commitment to educational excellence in Natrona County. 

Throughout his career with the Natrona County School District, he has left a fundamentally positive impact on the direction of education in Natrona County. Mr. Hopkins served as the district’s associate superintendent of business services for 17 years prior to taking the helm as superintendent in 2013. 

Often one to shy away from the spotlight, Mr. Hopkins led with the quiet understanding that oftentimes the true telling of a great leader is directly related to the success of those around you and your ability to help lead them to succeed. 

A colleague referred to Mr. Hopkins as a “lighthouse”; with a calm and steadfast demeanor. Hopkin’s leadership style coupled with his dedication to the betterment of the community we serve has been of paramount importance in guiding the Natrona County School District through both storms and clear waters. 

Over the course of the past 7 years, NCSD has faced many challenges including difficult fiscal landscapes, school closures, a call for increased transparency, and most recently, a pandemic. Within those years, the District has also prioritized targeted efforts to provide a high-quality education to all students and support all stakeholders with the implementation of major maintenance & construction projects, the development of an inclusive and comprehensive Strategic Plan, the development of a Multi-tiered System of Support within all schools, increased public information and community partnerships, a curriculum overhaul, and much more. 

Upon the announcement of his hire 7 years ago, Mr. Hopkins identified a goal of continuing to build upon the important relationship between students, staff, and school families; connecting school to home. He was often quoted as saying, “Our schools are a reflection of the community we support” and it’s with that genuine belief he led as Superintendent with honor, compassion for others, accountability, and dedication to community engagement. 

In August of 2019, NCSD announced Mr. Mike Jennings, Executive Director of Human Resources and District Services, as the incoming Superintendent. Throughout the year, a strategic transition process has been underway. During their June 8th meeting, the Board of Trustees expressed their sincere appreciation and gratitude for the leadership of Mr. Hopkins while welcoming Superintendent Jennings to the helm. 

“I am humbled and honored to follow Mr. Hopkins in his leadership and direction,” shared Superintendent Mike Jennings. “I am excited to continue working with each of our tremendously talented and professional staff members. I am honored to work together with students, staff, parents, school families, the NCSD Board of Trustees, and our community to ensure positive, supportive, and safe learning environments that promote high expectations for all. As a community, we have cheered for each other during times of celebration and success, leaned on each other during times of difficulty, and gently encouraged and held each other accountable during times of needed learning and growth. As we move forward into the next academic year, it is with this mindset…the mindset of hard work, grace, collaboration, and togetherness…that I know we can continue forward with educational excellence in Natrona County.” 

To Mr. Hopkins, thank you, and we wish you the very best in your future endeavors. 

To Superintendent Jennings, welcome aboard, we are looking forward to your continued leadership at NCSD. 

 

 
 

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1 Comment

  • kellie Olson-Budig

    THESE ARE NOT MY WORDS BUT DEFINITELY MY WORRIES!!!! I feel the only way to protect the students and staff that are in classrooms is to require students with bodily fluid issues such as biting, spitting, fingers in mouths and toileting issues must be home schooled.

    My Fears as a Special Education Teacher or assistant Facing Back-to-School During COVID-19

    One of the ways I cope on anxious days is through finding enjoyment and gratitude in my career as a teacher.

    When I feel overwhelmed with angst, I think of the students I teach, and focus on the small things I can do to help them. Serving others helps me to bring my focus outwards, and the constant, self-based, fearful thoughts I can experience feel less intense, and even less important.

    Unfortunately, as the days pass, and it becomes more evident that the coronavirus is here for the long run, I find my career is provoking anxiety of its own. As I hear people who have never stepped foot in a public school classroom demand that I return to my students in-person, my stomach twists in knots. Here is what I wish I could share with them, as a public school teacher of students with disabilities in a self-contained classroom.

    Dear Important Leaders and Decision Makers,

    My heart aches for my students every day. I miss helping them shape their alphabet letters from play-doh. I miss helping them as they learn to greet me in morning circle time.

    I miss helping my students with little things many of us take for granted. I tie their shoelaces. I post pictures in the restroom to help them remember how to turn on the light and flush the toilet. I give my students hugs and reassurance when the air conditioner kicks on and it is just too loud.

    Dear leaders, I love my job. It brings me purpose.

    I ask you though, how can you know we will be safe coming back?

    How do I socially distance from my students who need their hands held on the way to the bus?

    How do I teach my sweet student whose sense of touch is so sensitive that wearing a face mask would feel like sandpaper on their skin?

    How do I keep my student’s hands clean when their self-soothing habit is near-constant thumb-sucking and body rocking?

    How can I shield my medically fragile student from the risk of a life-threatening virus in a global pandemic?

    We need help. We need support. In the year 2020, I feel that my job has shifted from educator to first-responder. I am grappling with the idea of teaching in a pandemic, identifying symptoms and the age of face shields and social distancing.

    I am teaching in the new normal of “Code Red” drills, where we teach our students to hide and barricade in the classroom. I think about how I could defend my class in the event a mass shooter may enter. As a staff member, we learn what verbal signal over the PA system means “it really is a fire drill,” not a stranger sounding the alarm with malicious intent.

    These are the questions I toss and turn with at night. Can I return to the classroom feeling this unprepared? How and when will school be a safe place again? How can I teach when we don’t feel safe?

    The career I once turned to for moments of joy and gratitude has morphed into something different. As a person who manages my own mental health daily, how can I take this on? How can I teach my students to take this on? We need help.

    Sincerely,

    A public school special education teacher who cares

    The Mighty
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