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Getting to know Scott Kibby

West High AD selected as Liberty High’s new principal
Iowa City West High’s current Athletic Director Scott Kibby will take the position of the new Liberty High principal when it opens in 2017. (contributed photo)

IOWA CITY– The Liberty Lightning will be led by Scott Kibby, Iowa City West High’s current Athletic Director, when the new Liberty High opens in 2017.
The Iowa City Community School District Board of Directors approved Kibby as Liberty’s principal at a March 22 school board meeting.
Kibby, who will begin with a salary of $147,500, rose to the top of a candidate pool of over 30, said Jim Pedersen, the district’s interim chief human resources officer.
Kibby was hired as West’s Athletic Director in 2012. Before taking over as Athletic Director, he was the associate principal and athletic director at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids.
To help North Liberty get to know their new principal, Kibby sat down to a Q&A with the Leader.

Q: Congrats on the position! What does this new role mean to you?
A: Thank you for the congratulations. The new role is a wonderful opportunity to build a new school, both in terms of its physical structures, but more importantly, all the “people” components of the school. It’s exciting to be a part of the enthusiasm of the community to have their own school. As an educator, it’s also exciting to plan for building a staff community of caring adults and working with them to create a positive culture and climate that allows them to flourish as educators and in turn see our students flourish. Plus, building all those traditions that are in schools – whether they are homecoming, graduation or just general school spirit – there are so many new opportunities ahead, and I look forward to them all. High schools are dynamic and complex organizations and therefore there are so many exciting things to decide and work through. At every turn it’s brand new and we as a community get to make those decisions.

Q: Can you tell us more about your background? Your education, your experience working in schools?
A: This is my 30th year in public education. My undergraduate is in Mathematics, from UNI, where I graduated with “highest honors” and was on a full tuition scholarship. I got my Master’s in Educational Administration from the University of Iowa. I taught math for 16 years at two different locations: five years in Eddyville and 11 at Cedar Rapids’ Jefferson High School. I taught everything in my career from basic math classes to calculus. I am in my 14th year as an athletic administrator at two different schools: 10 at Cedar Rapids Jefferson (where I taught), and this is my fourth year here at West. In Iowa City, my role has been exclusively as the “athletic administrator.” In Cedar Rapids, my role was broader and I was an Associate Principal in addition to being the AD. That meant I supervised the performing arts department, as well as worked with the other building administrators in the management of the entire school. For example, I did teacher evaluations, helped lead staff development with the other administrators, I was involved with Professional Learning Communities as well, and the list goes on.

Q: What of your experience would you most like to bring to Liberty High School?
A: My educational philosophy will travel with me to Liberty, as it’s part of who I am, and how I try to work as an educator. It’s not complicated and has three core principles: A) Create great experiences for students, B) Challenge students to their potential while treating them respectfully, and C) Do everything with enthusiasm. I hope that others who know me and my work have seen these in action in my life and that these core values can impact everything we do at Liberty.

Q: What about Liberty should we most look forward to?
A: The journey. As I mentioned earlier, schools are dynamic and there is so much “new” to look forward to. We all are in a unique situation. I was told last week that there have been several old schools that were replaced and made new in a different location in Iowa, but that Liberty is just one of two brand new public schools with no history or traditions to be built in the 21st century (last 16 years). That’s exciting, to do something that few get to experience.

Q: How will you work with others in the school, district and community to build a positive culture for Liberty?
A: Culture and climate are about relationships. That starts with our attitudes and outlook. Do we look for and see the best in others? Do we work with energy and enthusiasm as I mentioned earlier? Those are good starting places for me in my skill set. Then it’s about being engaged in the community and working with the community, whether it’s booster clubs or PTO or business partners. It’s listening to families and being visible. Athletic administrators get practice in these areas, as our programs are so visible to our community. My boss and I haven’t set a date, but I’ll be out in the North Liberty area for some sort of meet-and-greet and let the community get to know me a little more. And, I’ll look for other opportunities for engagement. My connections to West High help a little in that regard as I’ve gotten to know a lot of families and we know that the Liberty community is a subset of my West community.

Q: What do you think some of the biggest challenges will be in opening the new high school, and how will we overcome them?
A: I think everything is a challenge about it and that’s what I’m excited about. A challenge is an opportunity. I don’t see the challenges as obstacles. They are opportunities to work through, and like an athlete, “to compete through.” I look forward to those challenges and the sense of accomplishment that all of us will have when we build our school community. If your question is more about “obstacles,” I think that we’ll have to develop some excellent community connections to work through the period of time where Liberty is open, but doesn’t have exterior competition fields. I’m optimistic that we can work through those, as I know we have met a couple of times with community leaders, and they have been receptive to helping us work through those facility needs. But, that’s going to take some effort from a lot of different angles.

Q: Some of the concerns raised in community discussions have been about equity in experience from West to Liberty. How will we ensure equity in academics, athletics and activities?
A: The schools are different, and Liberty especially will be starting out differently than West and City, with only freshman and sophomores required to attend in 17-18 and therefore we’ll grow into the building over three years before we are a “full” school. Again, that’s the exciting opportunity that’s in front of us. This isn’t going to be a cookie cutter copy of West or City.  [Myself, the staff and the community] get to work together to create our “own” school and community. I was just out there on the campus today and there are so many really nice features that the building has that are in place because it’s a new modern high school and not one built many years ago. The positives of the newness far outweigh the negatives as we grow into our school. In regard to academic opportunities, we absolutely want to be able to give our students the rigor and opportunities that West and City kids have. That may take some creative solutions in terms of class sizes, or traveling teachers or distance learning. We have a lot of work to do in terms of determining the academic needs of the students and then how we are going to meet those needs. But, we, as a district, have already begun that process and that will be a continued focus in preparation for the year the school opens.

Q: Tell us more about yourself...who is in your family? What do you like to do for fun?
A: I’m 51. On Aug. 1, I’ll be married to my wife, Kari, for 29 years. Kari works for Thrivent Financial and has an office on Hwy 965, right across the street from the golf course in North Liberty. I have three grown children. Nathan, is 24, and was a finance major at the University of Iowa and works for Northern Trust Financial in Chicago. I have identical twin 22-year old daughters, Erin and Megan. Erin is a senior at DePaul University in Chicago and is an English major. Megan graduated in December of 2015 from Belmont University in Nashville with an exercise science major. She will be going to grad school at Creighton in Omaha this fall to pursue a doctoral program in Occupational Therapy. As you can imagine, I enjoy sports. I still play adult basketball twice a week. I play golf as much as my schedule allows. I love the Hawks and Panthers as my alma maters, and I follow their sports teams. And I’m a Kansas City Royals baseball fan.
Above all, I really enjoy school and I always have. If you think about it, there hasn’t been a time in my life that I haven’t been “in school.” I love the activity of high schools, whether it’s all the contests that I get to watch where my student-athletes compete or the amazing talent on display at show choir, vocal or instrumental performances or the amazing philanthropy that young people display all the time in events like Dance Marathon. High schools are wonderfully busy places. But above all, it’s the daily interactions with students and staff and watching them grow and accomplish daily achievements and more significant achievements over time.