Micah Stauffer firmly believes that every individual is a leader.
The superintendent of Wicomico County Public Schools officially took over the reins on July 1, succeeding Donna Hanlin, who retired on June 30 after serving the county for six years. Since then, the surrounding community has welcomed him with open arms, says Stauffer.
Stauffer has already begun working closely with a variety of community organizations and political leaders. His first two months as superintendent consisted of traveling to all schools in the Wicomico County Public School District, where he met with principals, administrators, and school staff.
Stauffer also plans to lead 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 involve all of our stakeholders, including our parents and students.”
“We are all leaders”
Stauffer has a strong focus on fostering healthy relationships within the community.
“We are all leaders. We all influence others in some way,” he said. “It comes back to what I said before: as we move forward, we know where we are going and what work we have to do. But at this point, it’s about how we’re going to do that work. If we all see ourselves as leaders influencing others, then that’s how we’re going to get this work done.”
“Not only do we have to be leaders, we have to be principled,” Stauffer said.
An effective and impactful leader must possess integrity, value collaboration, believe in communication, advocate for great work, promote justice, empower others, be engaged and empathetic, have high expectations and ensure everyone has a voice, Stauffer said in his entry plan for superintendents.
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The Superintendent is currently in phase one of his entry plan. This phase, community engagement, will take place from now until October. Phase two, strategic planning and reporting, will then take place from November to February 2023.
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a 2021 law that will provide billions of dollars in additional funding for state schools, will be rolled out statewide this year. The investment will continue to be implemented over the next 10 years.
The Blueprint was addressed at Stauffer’s individual school presentations.
A plan for implementation of Blueprint for Maryland’s Future by the Wicomico County School District is expected to be available by spring. Among other things, it will address early childhood education, college and career readiness, resources for student success, governance and accountability, and diversity among teachers and leaders—all of which will reshape the future of education for the district.
Outside the classroom
Stauffer, who was selected from a group of three finalists, can remember the moment his selection caught his eye.
“I got a call from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and I was obviously very excited,” said the Superintendent. “I was honored to have been chosen to represent our entire team and school system.”
He shared the news with those closest to him: his wife and two children.
“They were just as excited as I was,” Stauffer said. “It was really an achievement that we all participated in.”
Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke of the family and the support they have shown following his rise to his role as Superintendent.
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Before interviewing or applying to be a superintendent, Stauffer would sit down with his family to discuss the future in order to include the people he loves most in the process.
“We talked as a family,” Stauffer said. “I asked her if this is a path we want to walk together? It will bring many changes to our lives as a family.”
Ultimately, he and his family made the decision together to take on this new role.
Stauffer says his children are particularly incredibly proud of their father.
“I always tell them do the best you can and whatever you do, do it well with the right attitude,” he said, gesturing to framed photos of his children. “I was always pushing them, so I wanted to show them that dad would do the same.”
Stauffer’s wife, a local pastor, is his biggest motivator and has been by his side every step of the way, he said, since he started teaching in the classroom.
Committed to his calling
He previously served as the school system’s chief finance and operations officer since 2019 and before that as the secondary school director from 2014 to 2019. He was also the principal of Parkside High and Mardela Middle and High, and the assistant principal of Mardela Middle and High and Wicomico Middle. He also taught science and trained at Parkside.
According to Stauffer, growing up, he was never quite sure which direction he wanted to go. When considering which career path he should choose, he couldn’t help but think of the teachers who shaped his young life.
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Later, after having the opportunity to be a substitute teacher, he realized that the classroom felt like home and that a career in education would undoubtedly bring direction and meaning to his life.
“Like many of us, growing up, I had different part-time jobs and different interests; I’m never quite sure which path appealed to me the most,” said the superintendent. “When I could just step back into a classroom, it all came back — the joy I had during my own educational experience.”
A career in education, Stauffer believes, is his true calling.
Olivia Minzola covers Lower Shore communities. Contact her with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.