West Salem schools’ new superintendent embracing unique responsibility

Several local school districts have new leaders tasked with reinventing education
Pandemic New Superintendent

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) – Starting a new job, class, moving to a new town can be scary. One local school leader is the top administrator for the first time in the middle of this pandemic.

Most people can relate to that first job or a new career. The feeling of being the new person in town. Change is hard. Trying something new tests people’s patience and their resolve.

“The unknown is what’s scary,” said Ryan Rieber, superintendent of the West Salem School District.

Rieber’s first year as the leader of a district serving 1,800 students, is just different.

“That’s why we all went into education in the first place because you never know what the day’s gonna bring,” Rieber said.

The former teacher turned principal carried himself up the ranks to this brand new responsibility.

“In life or in anything we have to play with the hand that we’re dealt,” he said. “Right now, we’re dealt this hand and we have to find a way to make the best of it.”

As superintendent of West Salem schools, his first mission is finding out the best way students and staff can form relationships from a computer screen.

“Our plan right now is to be virtual,” Rieber said.

Ryan understands the worry parents are experiencing.

“My wife’s an educator and we have three boys that all go to school here in West Salem,” Rieber said.

A school without children through his eyes is just a building.

“A school isn’t a school without kids in it. We need our kids,” he said. “Our kids are what brings the school alive.”

This father knows what school means for children and teachers like himself.

“We know those relationships and how important they are, and for the mental welfare of our kids,” Rieber said.

This pandemic presses on people’s emotions. Educators love children. It’s why they do what they do. In 2020, they have to set that thirst for human contact aside.

“You’re weighing the pros and cons of, how do we keep our staff, and our students, and our families safe?”

Rieber says now is not the time to feel sorry for ourselves. He said it is time to solve problems one day at a time.

“I don’t think anyone wants to walk into taking over something new in the middle of a pandemic,” Rieber said. “But, this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ type of thing here, because everybody’s dealing with these same things.”

Rieber said the district is trying to improve communication with families. For instance, they started broadcasting school board meetings. They are also trying to get internet access to everyone and hard copies of their plans so people stay informed.