It takes a special variety of brainpower and guts to lead in the same school district someone attended as a student. Furthermore, to become an educator in that district and now lead as the superintendent. This is one of many reasons why Randy Drost is a bold leader serving his hometown of Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Superintendent Drost not only knows all of his residents, some of these connections even go back generations.
Being a bold leader in a rural district comes with both rewards and challenges. Students Randy taught as an educator may become his employees. Outside of his role, he encounters parents and employees in the community daily. He may even run into a past employee, board or family member. While these opportunities give Randy a unique perspective into the lives of those he serves, leading in a closely connected rural community requires balance.
BALANCING BOLD RURAL LEADERSHIP
Beyond being a bold school district leader, Randy is also a connected, caring member of the Rice Lake community. In a podcast interview, Accountability in Closely Connected Communities, Randy shared what it’s like to lead in his hometown:
“In a rural community, your leaders are going to wear multiple hats. Me, for instance, I’m our district safety coordinator. I handle a significant amount of human relations, HR issues or things like that. There are PR expectations. I’m also billed as an instructional leader and supporter, and so you’re going to wear a lot of different hats. And with that, having the right people on the bus to support you as they’re going to wear multiple hats as well, that’s incredibly key.”
As a highly respected and well-loved leader in a rural area, Randy positions historical relationships with the fine line of professional boundaries that leadership requires. He is the community’s leader of education. He is also the home-grown son of generations of leaders in his geographic area. While his role demands he holds those in his community accountable, he also plays the role of neighbor, friend and family member.
Randy’s story is a carefully woven tale of connecting one’s roots with a desire to contribute greater good to his community through education. He connects to people at the heartstrings while holding them accountable for themselves and the next generation of Rice Lake graduates. Rural communities deeply value this connectedness from the school district to all people and industries. Notably, Randy embodies the characteristics of bold leaders such as:
- Positivity and proactiveness in the face of change
- Inspiring hope and collaboration with others
- Trustworthiness and acting with integrity
EMBRACE CHANGE FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
From 2020-2021, field trips in Rice Lake were on pause due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, Randy’s family runs a farm in their community. So, Randy offered his home and horses a memorable alternative to provide a safe field trip outing. Without a deep sense of trust between the community and Randy and his family, this wouldn’t have been possible. His integrity and generous spirit enable him to share the gifts of his farm with students to enjoy and learn.
Randy didn’t let the challenges of 2020 stop students from having unforgettable learning experiences. Instead, he effectively embraced change with a plan and set a clear vision for his team. Randy is a role model for people in his community and rural leaders across the country. Hilltop Elementary School Principal, Natalie Springer describes the impact of Randy’s leadership:
“I feel that the connection that Randy makes with the families and the community are an integral part of developing the trust and respect that is necessary for a district to be successful. Randy is an active participant in many community events and since he knows so many of our families on a personal level, he can make those connections and build the trust between school and home.”