Van Buren names new superintendent
KEOSAUQUA — Dr. Pam Ewell was named Van Buren Community School District’s Superintendent at a special meeting last week May 7.
Ewell is currently Mount Vernon Superintendent, a position she has held since 2009. Ewell graduated from Iowa State in 1982 and received her doctorate from Iowa State in 2004. She has held the following positions: teacher at Pella, teacher at Newton, Central College professor, principal at Twin Cedars, principal at Saydel, principal at Grinnell and superintendent at Mount Vernon.
She said she is excited about the opportunity to be Van Buren community superintendent.
“I’ll be spending time, looking at the pieces of what is excellent about the district and seeing what we can do to make it even better. Look at the strengths and also take care of the small things. Our most important asset is our youth.”
She said it’s been the smaller, not large districts that have been the innovators in education, mostly because they are nimble enough to react to the needs of their district.
One of the things she prided herself on was the effort to make Mount Vernon a school of choice.
“When parents are selecting a community to live in, they are looking at safe communities, the interest the communities have in education. I believe parents want a strong curriculum and have schools teaching their children at being successful at living in society. They want teachers they can communicate with and they want to be informed and want their children to enjoy school.”
The hardest part of her job at Mount Vernon was dealing with three student suicides within one year, she said.
“We tried to be very sensitive to the families who were dealing with this tragedy. It was an explosion in their face,” she said. “We also had to deal with it professionally.”
Ewell said the thing she wanted to accomplish was “building resiliency among the youth. Give them a healthy trust in adults and work to handle the stresses they have in their lives, understanding that childhood mental health issues are different from adults.
“There were a lot of different facets, and the pieces must be in place. Teen crises is a societal issue, but because teens spend much of their time in school, we will be involved.”
Ewell’s mother and stepfather live west of Van Buren County and their daughter-in-law is from that county as well, near Lake Rathbun.
Her daughter-in-law has been showing her some of the sights of Van Buren County.
“This area is the best kept secret of the state.
“So far, I’ve found the people of this school district to be very passionate about Van Buren and take great care and interest. I’ve found the students are doing very well academically and the administration and teachers are very committed. The people are very nice,” Ewall said.
Her husband, Brent, a former industrial arts teacher at Knoxville, is employed by Pella Corp. They have three children, Austin of Des Moines, Scott who lives in Texas, and Colleen from eastern Iowa. Colleen and her husband just welcomed a child into their family.
School board president Kara McEntee released the following statement:
“We had great applicants for the position of superintendent for Van Buren Community School District. Dr. Pam Ewell stood out because of her passion and experience in curriculum and instructional leadership. Her references and track record back that up. She has been very innovative at the schools she has been at as well and that is necessary with the dramatic changes in the educational landscape.
“Education is changing dramatically and we need to be innovative to continue to give our kids the best education and skills to be successful in their life. Dr. Ewell also has strengths and experience in finance, facilities planning and business collaboration to name a few. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Ewell to Van Buren Community School District. We appreciate the entire staff at Van Buren Community Schools for their commitment to giving all of the kids in the district the best education possible and making the District what it is today.
“We are so fortunate to have these educators in our community educating and guiding our future! We also appreciate [former superintendent] Mrs. [Lisa] Beames for working with all of the staff and community members of the District to make it financially healthy and improving the education that Van Buren provides to our students.”
According to terms of the contract, the board will review it annually by May 1. Salary for the first year is $128,000 and salary for the second year will be reviewed prior to July 1, 2014, and will not be less than the salary for the prior contract year.
A cash benefit in lieu of insurance in the amount of $1,859.88 per month for a comprehensive flexible benefit will be provided. The district will reimburse the superintendent for moving expenses up to $5,000 if the superintendent moves into the district within nine months of her hire.
She begins her job at Van Buren on July 1. She replaces Lisa Beames, who will be superintendent at Anamosa. Beames had been Van Buren’s superintendent since the 2010-11 school year.