Grosdidier hopes to pick up where Kobza left off
The role of Superintendent of School for USD 491 transitioned on Tuesday from Marty Kobza to Don Grosdidier.
For Kobza, it is both an ending and a new beginning, as he will be headed to a similar position in Hot Springs County, Wyo. It also is a bit surreal to be leaving the district he has been a part of for the last 14 years
"It's different," Kobza said. "You're starting all over and you're starting again, which is exciting and challenging. But at the same time, there are things here that are very familiar. So, I'm a little nervous."
Kobza, who is a father of five, said he and his wife had been considering a move for about two years, but began seriously looking into opportunities about 10 months ago.
"This was just the right thing for our family at this time in so many ways," Kobza said. "We are just so appreciative for the opportunities that the people of Eudora gave us. They gave me a chance to do the things I did and trusted me enough to make me superintendent."
Kobza's time as superintendent coincided with a time of rapid growth in Eudora. To deal with increased enrollment, Kobza oversaw the passage to two district bond issues.
The first built a new Eudora High School on the district campus south of Kansas Highway 10. The second was a $45 million bond issue passed last November, which included a new 1,000-student first- through fifth-grade elementary school started last month and is scheduled to open in August 2009; conversion of West Elementary to a pre-school and kindergarten center; expansion of the middle school, high school and technical education center; and the construction of a district stadium.
His sense of pride, though, is in the staff members he helped hire and who will populate those buildings.
"I'm definitely proud of the people who are a part of this district - that they remained part of it during my tenure and even more so the quality of the people that we brought in to the district and the quality of those people and the impact and the difference they've made for kids in every aspect of the district," Kobza said. "It's really that simple - it's about the people. We spent a lot of time focusing on that, and it has made all of the
difference in the world."
Consolidated Plan Director Janell Barnow has been with the district for 27 years and said Kobza's best attributes were his ability to motivate and see strengths in people they didn't see.
"Marty is a one of a kind boss who makes you better than you think you can be," Barnow said. "He also gets excited about your ideas and brings out the best in everyone because he could lead by example."
Some members of the district said Kobza began to turn around the district when he became involved in coaching sports. For his part, Kobza said it came down to not being satisfied and creating higher standards.
"It really is a matter of expectation, whether that be with football,
"You have to establish that this is someplace that is very special - in everything from a dress code to saying 'We're not going to accept mediocrity, that's not okay. We're going to be the best at whatever it is we choose to do.'"
Kobza started with a football team that had lost more than 20 games in a row and even in small victories told them they could be better. But he credit to other coaches who made that happen, praising football coach Gregg Webb, volleyball coach Jill Stutler among others.
"It's nothing that I did, other than just find good people and let them do their job," Kobza
Kobza said he still would be keeping tabs on Eudora.
"I want to celebrate their successes, because there are going to be a lot of them," Kobza said. "If I've done my job at all, this should continue to thrive and grow and be a great place to be. There are people who are good friends who I'll always be in touch with, this is a part of our lives; we lived this for 14 years. It's a huge piece of us and who we are - you don't just forget that."
Kobza said he left the district is in good hands with Grosdidier and Marla Johnson, who will be the interim director of curriculum and instruction.
"It has to do with that simple concept that it's people first and that truly successfully organizations have continuity and grow their own for leadership positions," Kobza said. "There's stability and trust that is built in, and you just won't find two better people than Don and Marla - these are character people who are really going to be solid."
Grosdidier, who has been with the district for 22 years, had a classroom that was next to Kobza's when they were social studies teachers at Eudora High School.
Grosdidier was promoted to middle school principal in 2001 and then promoted in 2006 to assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
A product of Eudora schools, Grosdidier said he felt a responsibility to the community in that this been his home since he was a child.
"Marty was very vested in the projects that we had, and the board is too and all of us," Grosdidier said. "One of the things that's made us successful throughout the years is our team approach to things. And Marty guided a lot of that. We've got a responsibility to those that have come before us and those that will come after us. I look at it as a stewardship."
One of the things Grosdidier will miss about Kobza is the fact that they saw eye-to-eye on so many issues.
"We were pretty like-minded and saw things through a similar lens, and I'm going to miss that more than anything," Grosdidier said. "We also had the ability to safely bounce ideas off of each other and say what we truly thought. One of the best things about our relationship was that it was strong enough that we could be very honest with each other and it's hard to develop that type of relationship with somebody."
A main tenet of the district is the philosophy of "good to great," which essentially says there is always room for improvement. That philosophy provides Grosdidier confidence in the continued ascension of the district.
"A big part of that is making sure that people are in the right seats on the bus, and Marty did a good job of putting people in the right seats," Grosdidier said. "That's a key to a lot of the success that we've had and it will help with my transition, too.
School Board President Kenny Massey said Grosdidier embodied all that is right about the district.
"As Don's tenure begins, I want to reiterate how pleased I am with the leadership he will be able to provide to our district as superintendent, through all the transitions and exciting projects on the horizon," Massey wrote in an e-mail to members of the district. "We are fortunate to have so many talented people committed to our students and our district.
"Don is just one of these people and my appreciation goes to everyone who makes Eudora Schools one of the top districts in the state."