By Dave Vrbas
The Wauneta Breeze
Paul Calvert’s biggest challenge in his new role at the helm of Educational Service Unit 15 has been thinking regionally instead of being able to concentrate solely on local issues.
Prior to taking over the administrative reins at ESU 15 on July 1 of this year, the former Columbus Lakeview superintendent was able to focus on the needs of just one school.
Now, as administrator of a service unit that provides services to nine schools in a six-county area, he is embracing the challenge of considering the educational needs of an entire area.
“There’s a learning curve,” Calvert said of his new position.
“The first thing I wanted to do in this role was to address the fact that we are the Educational Service Unit 15, and we are going to serve the schools in our six-county area in a positive manner. We need to build relationships with our schools and serve them in a cooperative way.”
Calvert’s career in education began in 1989 at Humboldt Public Schools. During his 20 years in education, he oversaw Chappell and Lodgepole’s consolidation to form Creek Valley Schools in 2002 and has also been employed with two other service units.
“I have a feel for what a service unit can do for schools from those experiences,” Calvert said, noting that declining enrollment is affecting many small schools across the state—a problem not unique to southwest Nebraska.
“That’s why it’s so important that we build that relationship with the schools,” he said.
Another challenge Calvert sees for the ESU is in recruiting quality educators in specialized fields to serve the schools of southwest Nebraska.
“We need to be able to find people willing to live in southwest Nebraska and enjoy the amenities that rural communities can provide,” Calvert explained.
“I lived in western Nebraska before,” he added. “I love the climate and I love the people out here. This is a great place to raise a family.”
Calvert’s move to rural Trenton was a boost to Hitchcock County schools, as well as the ESU. He brings with him daughter Amanda, a junior in high school, Jake, an eighth grade student, and Paul Jr., a sixth grader. All three are enrolled in school at Hitchcock County.
Calvert and his wife, Ann Marie, also have three older children. His oldest, Phil, works in Thurston, Neb. Lyle is a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Cassi is enrolled for fall classes at Southeast Community College.
While facing many a challenge as he settles into his new administrative position—including the adjustment to a different set of laws that governs ESUs rather than those public schools in the state must follow—Calvert is ready to embrace them.
“I’m very pleased with the staff here at ESU 15,” he said. Calvert met with each staff member individually in mid-August, but as they travel out to their assigned schools, he doesn’t see them as much as he was used to before.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know each of them better,” he said.
Duane Tappe, a former administrator who still helps out at the ESU as a special education consultant, said he can finally relax and begin phasing himself out now that the ESU has found someone of Calvert’s caliber.
“The ESU did a really great thing by hiring Paul Calvert,” Tappe said. “It’s in good hands.”
Calvert received part of his education at Wayne State, where he received his bachelor’s degree. He attended graduate classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and received his doctorate from South Dakota State University.
ESU 15 provides technology, transition, migrant education, special education, speech pathology, school psychology, language resource, behavioral consulting, alternative education and early childhood services to member schools in Chase, Hitchcock, Hayes, Dundy, Red Willow and Frontier Counties.
ESU 15 member schools are Wauneta-Palisade, Chase County, Dundy County-Stratton, Hayes Center, Hitchcock County, McCook, Southwest, Maywood and Medicine Valley.