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Board of education names Strycker superintendent

Jennifer Burt, director of Career and Technical Education in the Butler County School System, congratulates John Strycker upon his naming as the system's next superintendent.

Jennifer Burt, director of Career and Technical Education in the Butler County School System, congratulates John Strycker upon his naming as the system’s next superintendent.

After more than eight hours of interviews and deliberation, the Butler County Board of Education named Dr. John Strycker the system’s next superintendent on Saturday evening.

Strycker, a resident of Michigan and current superintendent of Algonac Community Schools in Algonac, Mich., was one of four candidates interviewed Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. alongside Jennifer Burt, director of Career and Technical Education in the Butler County School System; Reginald Eggleston, assistant superintendent of Mobile County Public Schools; and Joseph C. Eiland, education specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.

Among the four, Strycker was the only candidate who did not have previous or current experience working within the Butler County School System, but Butler County Board of Education president Michael Nimmer said that Strycker’s wealth of experience as a superintendent—13 years’ worth—outweighed his familiarity with the school system.

“He had experience with a school system that is very similar to ours with regards to some of the demographics,” Nimmer said. “He just had some wonderful credentials there that we just couldn’t pass over.”

Though Strycker has been bombarded with a number of questions since his arrival to Butler County Thursday evening, the most common concerns his interest in Butler County—and the Southeast in general.

“Due to a recent marriage of my junior high sweetheart, who lives in the Southeast region—she’s in North Carolina now—she did not want to move back up north,” Strycker said. “And I’m very blessed that I’m able to retire from Michigan with full retirement.

“So I started the job search with my wife in the southeast region. This was one of the postings, and it was a good match. Once I pursued it, I sincerely believed it was a very good fit.”

For Strycker, there were a number of reasons why, but one stood out among them.

“From what I saw in my research and even my visit of the school district Friday and conversations, I think it’s someone who can just bring together all of the potential this district has,” he added. “That’s been one of the strengths in my career—even in the district I’m in—is to bring people together in a school-family concept, which kids need now more than ever.”

That perspective is ultimately what won the board over, according to Nimmer.

“The deliberations were hard,” Nimmer said. “When you’re talking about people of this caliber who are applying for the superintendent position, they have such diverse backgrounds, resumes and experiences that it makes it really difficult when you’re trying to choose who the best person is.

“It was great to have those four here and to have as strong a list of candidates as they all were. But in the end, he just had the experience. One of things that we liked, too, was that he had that family vision of the school system and how it should be.”

In his brief three-day experience of Butler County, Ala., Strycker has largely avoided the feeling of culture shock. In fact, whether because of the downhome nature of its people or familiar sights, he’s experienced the opposite.

“I was in southern Indiana for five years,” Strycker said. “Even though that’s Indiana and this is Alabama, it’s a very similar culture to that. And so it’s very reminiscent of that, down to and including the courthouse that is in the very middle of the community. In southern Indiana, every community courthouse was in the middle, and so when I saw that here it reminded me exactly of that.”

Though Strycker won’t assume the superintendent role in an official capacity for some time, he has already outlined a meticulously-detailed 100-day plan (complete with physical handouts for board members and audience members present during the interview) for the coming transition.

But before putting that plan into action, Strycker said that he plans to listen first before offering his own input.

“My immediate focus will be to do what I call a listening tour, which involves listening to people and learning the community,” he said. “That’s my No. 1 objective headed into this job. It’s what we teach the little kids in the elementary school where I am now; one of those principles is to listen first, and then seek to be understood. And so I need to do a lot of listening.”