John Elkin
John Elkin
February 25, 2014

Life doesn't give you credit just for showing up, said John Elkin, who helped spearhead an effort to remove attendance, behavior and extra-credit assignments from the grading policy at Webster City Community Schools.

"It raises the rigor for students, placing 70 percent of their grade on summative assessment," he said, explaining that five years ago, administrators realized that 25 percent of the district's graduates were not proficient in reading and math.

Elkin is the fourth and final candidate seeking to fill the open Carroll High School principal position vacated by Steve Haluska two weeks into the current school year. CHS assistant principal Tammie McKenzie, former agriculture teacher and Central Lee High School principal Rusty Shockley and Doug Gee, assistant principal and activities director in the Adel DeSoto Minburn Community School District, were interviewed last week.

Elkin highlighted his area ties - he coached in the Paton-Churdan district and taught in the Jefferson-Scranton district to kick off his career. He has been in Webster City for 10 years, seven as assistant high school principal and the last three as head principal. Descending from a "family of educators," Elkin has taught English, coached football, track and drama and served as yearbook and newspaper adviser.

He was involved in the bond effort and construction of an $11 million gym facility, the recent rollout of the district's K-12 one-to-one iPad initiative, coordinating a class-sharing program with nearby Northeast Hamilton school district and establishing a regional academy to provide a job-training program for graduates who do not attend college.

Though his decade in Webster City has been great for his career and his family, Elkin said, his two boys, ages 4 and 2, are his key reasons for seeking to move now.

"The closing Electrolux has changed the dynamics of that town," Elkin said of Webster City, stating his desire to move while his children are still young so they can be embedded in the community where they will be educated. Carroll was on the short list.

The Electrolux washer and dryer manufacturing plant employed 850 people prior to its closing in 2011.

According to Elkin, Webster City students and parents would likely describe him as visible, approachable, caring and positive - well-respected if not always well-liked.

"I'm firm, fair and consistent. I never make it personal with kids," said Elkin, who spent the majority of his first two years in Webster City handling discipline problems.

He also voiced pride that in his 10 years as an administrator, his house has never been egged - more than can be said for his predecessors, of which there were three in a six-year period.

"I like to have a good time, but when I'm serious, I'm serious," he said.

Elkin seeks to model positive behavior - personal discipline, social-media use and community involvement - that will aid students in a post-high school world.

Active on Facebook and Twitter, Elkin operates a school account as well as personal accounts.

He helped implement a communitywide service day for seniors in the last days before graduation, in which 96 percent of the students participated.

In the community, he regularly presents to the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, sits in a dunk tank each year to raise funds for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, and started a minor league football team in Webster City in 2007.

In the school, he is visible in the classrooms, attempting to walk through each class at least three times each semester.

If hired, Elkin believes he can help change the climate and culture at Carroll High through an emphasis on school pride.

Elkin also described himself as loyal - he may not always agree with school board decisions, but "what the boss expects, the employee respects," he said, adding that he would keep the superintendent informed on day-to-day action to avoid surprises.

The last two books he read were Veronica Roth's "Divergent" and a professional-development piece on the need to incorporate technology into the classroom to reach the different brains of today's learners.