The Lawrence school district's new superintendent spent much of his first day on the job getting better acquainted with his central office staff.
Al Azinger, who has come to Lawrence after working as a school district administrator in Iowa City, Iowa, for 15 years, said he began his day Wednesday by reading over some informational materials and meeting with Assistant Supt. Bob Taylor.
Azinger then had the opportunity to visit with more of his staff when the central office, or Service Center, held a welcoming reception for Azinger and his wife, Brenda.
"I spent a lot of time talking with people," he said. "I've done a lot of listening. I've asked some questions and had some more questions generated as a result of that."
Azinger also sat in on the noon meeting of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's Business-Education Task Force, which met at the Service Center. The new group hopes to determine what role Lawrence businesses can play in enhancing the quality of education in Lawrence.
AZINGER said he is impressed with the task force.
"It seems to verify some of the things that I feel very positively about in terms of this district and this community," he said. "It seems to verify that people here see the education process as a community kind of thing and that we're all in this together.
"The whole business of education is complex enough that if we're not all in this together, we're not going to manage very well."
Azinger spent Monday and Tuesday in a workshop for new Kansas superintendents put on by the Kansas Association of School Administrators. Azinger said he still has some things to learn about Kansas' system of public education.
"The whole business of school finance is done differently here than it is in Iowa," Azinger noted.
As for issues relating particularly to Lawrence, he said, "Obviously, one of the issues that's going to be given attention is the whole space issue and how that's going to be dealt with."
TWO LAWRENCE school commissions have developed recommendations for new school facilities to handle enrollment growth at both the elementary and secondary levels. Those recommendations will be taken to the Lawrence school board on July 16.
Azinger is familiar with the problems that enrollment growth can engender: His district saw the defeat of a bond issue proposal last fall that would have paid for a new elementary school and improvements to several school facilities. A similar bond issue was defeated again this spring but by a smaller margin.
While a simple majority is needed to pass a bond issue in Kansas, a "super majority" of 60 percent is needed to pass a school bond issue in Iowa.
Azinger said it was ironic that on the same day Iowa City's fall bond issue was defeated because only 52 percent of the voters favored the proposal, Clarence Thomas was elected to the U.S. Supreme Court with only 52 of 100 U.S. senators voting for his selection.
AZINGER said he also spent part of Wednesday learning about the school board's annual organizational meeting, which will be Tuesday. At that meeting, the board elects its president and vice president and takes care of a number of perfunctory matters.
Azinger, 50, said he and his wife presently are renting a townhome in Lawrence but will move into a house in August. Their younger daughter, Natalie, is attending Iowa State University, and their older daughter, Catherine McAlister, is a teacher in the Chicago area.
Azinger said he and his wife will be heading for Chicago this weekend to celebrate his father's 80th birthday.
Azinger, who for the last seven years has been associate superintendent at Iowa City, said that because he was the most tenured administrator in the district, he found it difficult to leave Iowa City during his two weeks of vacation in June.
"Everybody wanted me to tell them how to do things before I left," Azinger said.