Rusty Shockley
Rusty Shockley
February 20, 2014

Rusty Shockley taught agriculture for 20 years in three different school districts before taking his current job as high school principal at Central Lee in Donnellson six years ago. The high school houses about 400 students.

Describing himself as a "people person," Shockley said this background enables him to strike up conversation on market prices, a benefit in a region with an agricultural base.

"Communication is paramount in education and in being an effective leader," said Shockley, explaining that the principal is responsible for connecting to a variety of groups, ranging from staff and students to parents and community organizers. "As high school principal, you are responsible for communicating with the public and developing those relationships that down the road will benefit education and the kids."

Shockley is the second of four candidates being considered for the Carroll High School principal's position vacated by Steve Haluska's abrupt resignation two weeks into the current school year. Current assistant principal Tammie McKenzie was interviewed Tuesday. John Elkin, principal at Webster City High School in Webster City, and Doug Gee, activities director for the Adel DeSoto Minburn Community School District in Adel, will be interviewed Friday and Monday. Parents are invited to question the candidates at the high school from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. both days.

His time in agriculture education also instilled a sense of competitiveness and a respect for community service that has served him well in his position as high school principal, Shockley said.

"(Former colleagues) would say I am passionate about education. I want to see kids excel," he said. Shockley also said he is confident in his ability to make decisions.

This passion, confidence and competitive spirit was tested in his first year as principal. He knew when he accepted the job that the school was going to be on a reading watch list for having less than 70 percent of its students score proficient on state tests. He and his staff worked with the local area education agency to develop and implement a framework for intentional daily instruction. Last year, between 89 and 92 percent of students scored proficient in reading, math and science, he said.

His first year was also the year the district began considering a one-to-one technology initiative, which was formally implemented at the high school three years ago. Students received MacBook Pros, and classrooms received interactive white boards. Shockley described himself as being "in on the ground floor" of the initiative, present for extensive teacher training and technology-focused professional development.

But, Shockley acknowledges he is new to the social-media aspect of incorporating technology into classrooms. Though he sees no real administrative benefit of Facebook, he sees potential educational benefits in Twitter and began using the network about two months ago.

Another characteristic of a good leader is being able to listen, Shockley said, adding that his first step in any disciplinary process is to hear all parties out. It is also beneficial to seek staff input on directives, he added, citing a limited cellphone policy implemented at Central Lee.

"It was teacher-driven," he said. "As long as they enforce it, I was comfortable with that."

In his ideal day, he is able to "steal minutes" to spend in the classrooms to interact and observe teachers and students. The last two books he read were both by educator Doug Fisher, focusing on classroom collaboration and structure.

Central Lee also gave him experience with special education. In the past six years, the number of special-education students has been cut in half, a statistic he hopes reflects their success in moving into traditional classrooms.