By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — Ron Walsh says it’s not about him.
Although the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators recently selected Dr. Ron Walsh, superintendent of the Elk Mound school district, as the Superintendent of the Year for 2014, he says the credit should go to all of the teachers and administrators at Elk Mound.
“My thanks is to the people that I’m surrounded with. There is so much excellence here. I’m just a part of that. I got lucky and got the credit for what everybody else does. But I will accept the award on behalf of all the hard-working people here (in Elk Mound),” Dr. Walsh said.
WASDA announced that Dr. Walsh had been selected as Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year for 2014 on November 1.
Dr. Walsh will be representing Wisconsin in the National Superintendent of the Year program sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators at the national conference on education in Nashville in February.
Dr. Walsh will receive the 2014 Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year award at the joint education conference of state school boards, district administrators and school officials in Milwaukee in January.
“I’m surprised that I got it. There are some great superintendents in the state. Elk Mound is representative of the small schools. I’m happy for the small schools, and I’m happy for Western Wisconsin,” Dr. Walsh said.
“We’ve got some phenomenal superintendents around here, and I can’t say I’m better. We’ve got Christine Stratton (Menomonie) and Mary Ann Hardebeck (Eau Claire) and Brad Saron (Chippewa Falls). And we’ve got great superintendents in the smaller schools. Bill (Yingst; Colfax); Kevin (Sipple; Boyceville). They all do good work every day. It’s not about being better. It’s about being around great people, and that includes superintendents. We help each other out all the time,” he said.
Tim Sivertson, president of the Elk Mound Board of Education, nominated Dr. Walsh for the award.
Dr. Walsh has served as superintendent at Elk Mound since 2003.
He earned his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership through Edgewood College in Madison several years ago.
Before taking over as superintendent, Dr. Walsh was the high school principal in Elk Mound for two years and was the principal at Elk Mound Middle School for eight years.
When Dr. Walsh started working in Elk Mound, Bill Vincent was the superintendent.
“I called Bill Vincent the other night to thank him for all he did before I got here. He was here 24 years, from 1979 to 2003. It was great to be able to jump in and not have to rebuild from the ground up. He had the foundations, and the foundations were solid. What a phenomenal man. His leadership let me learn as a principal what I needed to learn that has helped me to be a superintendent,” Dr. Walsh said.
Dr. Walsh started his career in education teaching fifth grade at Connorsville Elementary in the Boyceville school district.
“I loved it. It was so much fun,” Dr. Walsh said.
Along the way, he went back to school at UW-Stout to earn his degree as a guidance counselor. After teaching at Connorsville for five years, he taught fourth grade at Wheeler for one year and second grade at Boyceville for one year.
After that, he accepted a position as an elementary guidance counselor in Spooner where he served for seven years: four years as the elementary guidance counselor and three years as the middle school guidance counselor.
The elementary school in Spooner was quite large, with over 700 students, Dr. Walsh noted.
“I have a lot of good memories from Boyceville. You can’t beat memories of when your kids are babies and they’re little. And that’s what’s in my mind about Boyceville. Walking around with Ryan in snowstorms and dragging him around behind me on a sled. Our daughter had a lot of physical problems when she was born, and the community was so good to us. That means a lot, too. It was hard to leave Boyceville,” Dr. Walsh said.
Dr. Walsh came to the Elk Mound school district to serve as the middle school principal.
While he was at Spooner, he had earned his principal certification at UW-Superior and was also working on a specialist degree toward certification as a school superintendent.
This year is Dr. Walsh’s 11th year as superintendent at Elk Mound.
“I’ve had my superintendent’s license since 1995 … Superintendent is a challenging job. When there’s a job opening, there are not a lot of people who apply for these jobs,” Dr. Walsh said.
“The values here are the kids are ‘number one.’ People care about their kids, and they care about their neighbors’ kids. And yet, they are involved in the larger world. Our parents work in Eau Claire and Menomonie and the Twin Cities. One of my neighbors is a flight attendant for an airline. She flies all over the world, but she lives in rural Elk Mound and wants her kids to go to school here. It’s really nice to be part of that rural close-knit community,” he said.
Dr. Walsh grew up in Chippewa Falls.
He and his wife, Susan, live in rural Elk Mound. Their two children, Ryan and Laura, both graduated from Elk Mound High School.
Dr. Walsh recently served as a guardian on a Freedom Honor Flight accompanying World War II and Korean veterans to visit war memorials in Washington D.C.
He also has served on the board of directors for the United Way of Dunn County, Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire, and the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.
Dr. Walsh donated a kidney to his daughter when she was six years old, and since then, he has spoken to hundreds of students and other groups about the importance of organ donation.
The Elk Mound school district recently earned an overall accountability rating on the state report card of “exceeds expectations.”