WL schools go to Potts

Jacob Lane · Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Dr. Joseph Potts has been chosen as the next Superintendent of the West Liberty Community School District, but he prefers to go by Joe.

“I’ve got a lot of life left in me,” says Dr. Potts. The 53-year-old is currently the principal of Kent Lake High School in Kent, Wash. He’s been a part of the Kent District for 12 years.

However, as of Aug. 1 he’ll be the head honcho in West Liberty. It’s his first time as a superintendent, something he’s been working towards his whole life.

“Quite frankly it’s the work that I’ve always wanted to do,” says Potts, who’s been in education for 30 years. “I see it as a great way to contribute and I’m really excited about it.”

Dr. Potts earned his doctorate in Literacy Education at the University of Iowa, graduating in 1996. While finishing his dissertation he met his wife Lisa.

Not long after, he received a job offer at California State University in Long Beach, Calif., where he was a professor and department chair for nine years.

Eventually he was hired by the Kent Lake District where he’s now a high school principal. He’s been a principal for seven years, currently his high school has 1,500 students.

But in a way, Dr. Potts is coming back to where it all started. Not only did he graduate from the University of Iowa, but so have many members of his family.

“We’re tight with the U of I,” he says. “I’m familiar with Iowa. I like it, it’s a familiar kind of environment for me.”

Ever since his two boys were born, Max and Julien, the Potts family have come to Iowa for family vacations to visit his parents, siblings and extended family.

They’re now selling their house in Auburn, Wash. before making the big move to West Liberty. He’s going to be an Iowan again, and he’s happy about it.

His older son is now in college while his younger son will be a freshman at West Liberty High School this upcoming school year.

Dr. Potts hopes to work closely with the board of directors in West Liberty. In fact, during his first year he wants to get to know the district and the community.

“I hope to get out and listen and learn, get to know people and contribute to the community,” he says. “[It’ll] be a year of listening and learning and committing myself to being a solid presence in the community.”

Previous Superintendent Steve Hanson, who retired at the end of the 2016/17 school year after six years as superintendent, was well known for his involvement with the community.

It looks like Dr. Potts wants to replicate that.

“I intend to attend many events, I plan to be in the community. I’m out right now three or four nights a week with the work that I do,” he says.

However, Dr. Potts is a different man with a different experience and style. He’s into the analytics of schooling and data.

“I think I can bring 30 years of working in schools and in professional development, in school improvement and in data analysis,” he says.

“I bring a lot of expertise, I have a strong academic skill set,” he adds. “I’ve worked with schools that have struggled and we’ve seen great improvement. I have that experience.”

Not that the West Liberty Community School District is struggling. The district currently averages around 1,300 students. It encompasses West Liberty, Atalissa and Nichols.

There are four buildings, the Early Learning Center which houses prekindergarten and kindergarten, the elementary school, the middle school and high school.

Oh yeah, there’s also the Dual Language Program, which allows students to learn two different languages all twelve years of their schooling experience.

That was another draw that attracted Dr. Potts to West Liberty. The district’s Dual Language Program was among the first in the state and continues to be one of the largest.

Dr. Potts started his career as a high school language arts teacher, so naturally, his biggest passion is reading and writing.

“I love to read, I’m an avid reader,” he says. “I read a hundred books or more a year. I really love nonfiction and I love historical nonfiction. I like to read biographies.”

“So yeah, I read a lot,” he says excitedly.

That being said, Dr. Potts has also published a book. Entitled “Mentoring Beginning Teachers,” the book was produced by Dr. Potts, Jean Boreen, Mary Johnson and Donna Niday.

The book enables mentors to provide a “road map” for teachers fresh into education. It highlights everything from working with parents to English Language Learner students.

That leads into another area that he hopes to champion, working with teachers. He’s worked with elementary, middle and high school teachers in California and Washington,

“I worked very closely with a diversity of administrators during my career and I’m proud of that, I really am proud of that,” he says.

However, if there’s one thing West Liberty community members are looking for, it’s longevity. We want a superintendent that will stick around.

“You know, if you look at my record you’ll see that,” he says. “We’re good community members and we like to be involved, to make a home,” he says.

“I’m a guy who likes to contribute and I hope to do that in West Liberty. No one knows the future, but I’d like to make a contribution to help the schools thrive and flourish.”

We welcome you and your family to West Liberty, Joe Potts. May our community serve you as much as you plan to serve it.
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