Being the first candidate to interview with the USD 489 Board of Education for the superintendent position might have been a stroke of good luck, John Thissen said.
Thissen was in Hays on Tuesday after receiving a phone call Monday evening asking him to interview.
The short notice for the interview, “worked out really well because, it being the last day of school (for USD 489), I get the opportunity to see a number of the staff, which I understand, since it’s the last day, other candidates tomorrow (and) next week won’t get that opportunity. I feel very fortunate getting to meet the staff,” Thissen said.
Only a couple of people attended the meet and greet Tuesday afternoon, perhaps because the school district staff met Thissen as he toured the schools along with Sarah Wasinger, board of education clerk and assistant to the superintendent.
Thissen currently is Herington superintendent, with a K-12 enrollment of 450.
His wife Kelli, a Fort Hays State University graduate, teaches elementary physical education in Junction City. Because of the short notice she wasn’t able to come along for the interview, but plans to move with her husband if he is selected.
“She has great memories of Hays,” he said.
They have two grown children.
When he was hired by Herington, the school district was in the process of studying facilities, and soon determined a bond was needed.
It took three tries in 18 months, but a $15 million bond to build a new elementary school and make other improvements passed on the third try, Thissen said.
“It was fun. I know it’s challenging with the bond part, working with the public, trying to be as transparent as possible, so they really see and understand what’s needed,” he said. “It was nice, satisfying at the end of it to even have those who were the most negative about it, you know, (who) just didn’t want taxes to go up, even they were pleased with how it was done.”
Negotiations between USD 489 representatives and the bargaining unit committee proved to be long and difficult, even coming to impasse during the 2015-16 school year.
Thissen said his negotiating experience is with interest-based bargaining.
“You work together. You identify what the interests are.”
Though he doesn’t have any experience in traditional negotiation like the school district has used the past couple of years, “I think I can,” he said.
Thissen called the school district “amazing,” and said the staff’s pride in the district was “energizing.”