Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Strike Up The Band!

In the process of interviewing Mr. Ted Schacherer for our band position at North Fayette High School, one of the questions that I asked was “what will be your first halftime show?” His response surprised me a little bit as I had expected every young director with a liking of marching band to have that “dream show” that he or she had thought through night after night when they struggled to sleep. However, I didn’t get an answer like that. Rather, he responded, “Geez, I would have to get to know my band and their capabilities before I can make that determination.” Right there, I knew we had the right guy. He did share what his program at Tri-Center was last year, but this was a young director that was going to come in and see what he had, rather than force something preconceived. The analogy is the basketball coach that designs his offense or defense based on the abilities of his players, rather than force a specific type on them because that is his preference. His answer was one of an individual who has years more experience!

Mr. Schacherer joins us from western Iowa, teaching a year at Tri-Center Community Schools. For those of you unfamiliar with my old Western Iowa Conference stomping grounds, Tri-Center’s school is located right along Interstate 80 out in the country, and is made up of the towns of Neola, Persia, Minden, Beebeetown, and the surrounding rural areas. Why they didn’t call it Quad-Center, I don’t know! Anyway, he was there one year after graduating from Luther College and attending high school in Knoxville. From my South Central Conference days, Knoxville was a strong rival of my former Chariton Chargers! I guess when you have been as many places as I have, you can lay claim to all kinds of connections!

The band program at North Fayette is off to a flying start with Mr. Schacherer. He is enthusiastic and has hit the ground running. Students have already learned a lot of new things, particularly aspects of marching band. He has been able to build on the outstanding program Mr. Greg James has built over the years and is adding something new. The halftime program is “Journey,” and when you watch and listen, people from my generation can reminisce about that incredible voice of Steven Perry and those high school dances when if you got lucky, there was at least one girl left to dance to “Open Arms” with. A lot has to go into building a marching band, and you can see some of those initial steps being taken. Though he doesn’t have them roll-stepping yet, the band is starting to get comfortable showing a little of that “swagger” that marching bands have in their performance. They are taking it one step at a time (pun intended)! We are excited to have Mr. Schacherer leading our instrumental music program and look forward to an outstanding future!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Future of Farming/Agriculture

“I believe in the future of farming, with a faith born not of words but of deeds . . .” That’s all I remember from those six weeks of learning the FFA Creed my freshman year at Oakland High School. Now even what I remember has changed as the opening line goes: “I believe in the future of agriculture; with a faith born not of words but of deeds . . .” Agriculture has changed dramatically over the 30 years that have passed since Mr. Kearney made us memorize one stanza at a time during that first week of my voc ag experience. And now, after nearly thirty years, a change has taken place in the vocational agricultural program at North Fayette High School.

Ryan Holthaus is a graduate of Decorah High School and Iowa State University (where else do ag teachers graduate from!). He has taught previously at Anamosa High School. When he applied for our position, an all to common thought came across me: why would he want to move from a school the size of Anamosa to one smaller, like North Fayette? Then, I looked in the mirror and realized that I had a similar answer almost a year before. In Mr. Holthaus’s case, Brian Harper had built a very strong program, making it an attractive place to teach. Believe me, when I saw the principal position opened up, North Fayette was an attractive place to me because of the quality people that work in this district and the quality families that send their kids here to school. I also know it was a plus that he was able to move his family closer to where both he and his wife grew up. In this respect, luck on our behalf doesn’t hurt!

This is my fifth school district that I have worked in, and the eighth Iowa community where I have lived. I have a pretty good handle on this state, but must admit that our move to northeast Iowa has been a great new adventure. Every trip we take north and east of West Union seems to expose us to something new. This is also the most agriculturally intensive place I have lived in years. What I mean is that the agricultural industry has a greater impact on our local economy and culture than it did in the other places I lived in Iowa. A lot of that is due to the changes that have taken place over the years, but what I see here is still a strong attachment to the family farm. Because of the dairy industry, farming here is still labor intensive, much more so than in the western part of the state where many livestock operations are a thing of the past and what huge hog confinements do exist are highly automated. In other words, farming is still a way of life here, not simply an occupation.

So what does this have to do with Ryan Holthaus? I believe that he is the right person in the right place at the right time for North Fayette. He is a young man committed to students and the future of agriculture. From what I have seen, he brings a solid focus and balance to production, business, and scientific aspects of the industry. And most important, he shows a passion for what he does. If you have not had the opportunity to meet him, please take the time to seek him out and introduce yourself. You won’t have to look far because he is out and about all of the time. Welcome to North Fayette Mr. Holthaus!