By Jared Janzen
BURRTON—Just three weeks after Burrton USD-369 began the search process for a new superintendent, the board of education has hired Kara Schwindt to fill its top leadership position.
“It was definitely a fast process, but I’m really excited,” she said. “I think right now ‘excited’ is kind of my word. I’m excited to get in and meet staff, meet the community and see what direction we’re going to go.”
Schwindt said she was interested in the Burrton superintendent position because she wanted to stay close to the Wichita area to be near family.
“I intend to be around here for a long time, and I love that small town, family feel, so I thought that would be a good place for me to start with and grow,” she said.
Schwindt said she’d eaten at The Barn a few times and had a couple friends from Burrton, but otherwise, she wasn’t too familiar with Burrton yet. She toured the school last Wednesday with a couple staff members.
“We had good conversation and I asked a lot of questions, and they were able to answer all my questions I had,” she said. “I got a really good, positive feeling while walking through there, and I was just very impressed by the things that community has and the things we’re going to get to build upon. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do.”
Schwindt said her biggest goal at this point is just to meet with staff, both one-on-one and in small groups.
“Just to listen to them and see what are some things they want to work on and where do they think we should go as a district, as well as meeting with the board to see what our board goals are, what our strategic plan looks like, and how we can build upon those to make our students successful,” Schwindt said.
Schwindt will also hold the position of Burrton Elementary School principal, similar to her predecessor, Joan Simoneau.
Schwindt spent the past three years as Director of Learning Services for Haven School District. She held several roles in this position, including preschool principal, virtual school principal, plus overseeing ESSER funds, Title funds, and professional development.
“It was lots of jobs in one, you could say,” she said.
Schwindt is a graduate of Hugoton High School. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Newman University, a building leadership endorsement from Fort Hays State University and a district leadership endorsement from Wichita State. She also holds endorsements in reading and ESL.
She started her teaching career in Garden City, where she spent 12 years in a variety of roles. First she was an early education special education teacher for three years, followed by other roles like kindergarten teacher, sixth-grade English/language arts, and literacy coach. After that, she spent two years teaching first grade at Valley Center before taking the position in Haven.
Schwindt said becoming a superintendent has been a long-time goal of hers.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “When I was in the third grade, I had a phenomenal third grade teacher, and she inspired me to want to continue in education. I never veered from that path.”
She added she’s had some great leaders along the way who inspired her to keep going, and she hopes to in turn inspire other staff members to become leaders, as well.
Schwindt has three kids: 11-year-old Kyra, eight-year-old Karter, and four-year-old Reatus.
She plans to move to the Burrton area after the contract on her current apartment expires in October. She’s excited to become part of the community, she said.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” she added.
She urged people to contact her at any time if they have questions or want to do events so that the community and school can work together. She plans to attend Burrton’s Fourth of July celebration and looks forward to meeting people that day.
It only took Burrton three weeks to hire a new superintendent from when they accepted Simoneau’s resignation and first met with the Kansas Association of School Boards about the search process on May 24. By law, the district was required to hire a new superintendent by July 1.
School Board President Karl Matlack said in a press release that the board used input from teachers, administrators, parents and community members in its hiring process.
“The board is certain in our choice of Kara Schwindt and confident that, under her leadership, USD-369 will continue to thrive,” he stated.
Schwindt was one of two finalists who interviewed for the position. The other was Eric Smith, superintendent of schools in Carnegie, Okla.