In many ways, taking the job as the new superintendent in Colorado is bittersweet for Bruce Messinger.
“It’s emotional,” Messinger said Friday afternoon while sitting in his near-empty office on the last day of his contract with Helena Schools.
After 14 years overseeing the 8,200 students and hundreds of employees, Messinger said, some ownership is expected. But the time has come to step aside and allow Keith Meyer, who has been the assistant superintendent, to step in as interim superintendent for the upcoming year.
Messinger was hired as the superintendent of Boulder Valley School in Colorado and he officially starts that new job next week. There, he will oversee a much larger district than the Helena district, leading the state’s eighth-largest school district (of 178 Colorado districts) encompassing nearly 500 square miles extending from the Continental Divide to the north edge of the Denver metropolitan area with an enrollment of more than 29,000 students in 55 schools.
While he grew up in Nebraska, in many ways Messinger is going home, since he previously worked as the deputy superintendent in Greeley, Colo., and still has family in western Nebraska.
But that’s not to say that he hasn’t made Helena his home. He said he’s come to love the Capital City and its people. But maybe what he’ll miss most is sitting on his deck in the South Hills with a view of the Capitol, the Sleeping Giant and Mount Helena, or taking off from his driveway for a killer bike ride.
“It’s a nice way to end the day,” he said, adding that the supportive community in a beautiful setting is a rich combination that makes Helena appealing.
Messinger has a long list of achievements during his time here, but one that he is most proud of is the relationship that’s been built between administration and staff.
“It has allowed us to maximize resources to benefit children,” he said.
Messinger is also proud of the implementation of full-time kindergarten and establishing the Helena Education Foundation. He’s pleased to have played an integral part in securing adequate funding for schools in Montana through the Montana Quality Education Coalition.
In 2003, he was named Montana Superintendent of the Year.
Messinger also served in the midst of a community controversy over a new health curriculum in the schools. Much of the stir was over the sex-education portion or the curriculum, which concerned some parents and led to a heated election over school board seats.
Meyer is stepping up and taking over Messinger’s seat on the Lewis and Clark County Board of Health and on the Chamber of Commerce. He’ll officially take over as superintendent next week.
Meyer was named Messinger’s right-hand man soon after he became superintendent. Earlier this year Meyer planned to retire, but when Messinger announced his departure he offered to stay.
Messinger said he’s confident in the work that’s in motion and Meyer’s ability to continue moving the district in a positive direction.
“The timing is great,” Messinger said.
Messinger’s advice to Meyer is to keep building relationships, and work closely with the board of trustees.
Meyer said that’s just what he intends to do.
“I want to build on what we’ve been doing and continue in the direction the district is headed setting those steps for the next three to five years,” Meyer said.
There will be challenges, and Meyer hopes to identify them early on. He is also thinking about what is needed from staff from the coming year before the district hires a permanent superintendent and possibly an assistant superintendent.
Meyer’s contract includes a $121,742 salary, an annuity ($23,500), and health benefits. He’s entitled to 12 days of personal leave for the year, and payment for any unused days. It also recognizes that Meyer has accrued various forms of leave during his previous employment, which will carry over.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org