A native of South Dakota and longtime superintendent in Taylorville, Dr. Greggory Fuerstenau is no stranger to challenges in school finance, facilities and education. And starting July 1, he took on a new challenge as superintendent of the Litchfield School District.
"I'm extremely excited about this opportunity in Litchfield," said Dr. Fuerstenau. "We have some challenges ahead of us, but we also have a chance to provide some wonderful opportunities for our students."
Dr. Fuerstenau was born and raised in South Dakota, which is where he got his start in education as a teacher.
He met his wife, Shelley Graves, while he was a teacher and administrator on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A native of Louisville, KY, Graves came out to the reservation as a volunteer teacher. The couple have two children, Grant, a senior at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and Courtney, a sophomore at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO.
He took his first superintendent position in eastern South Dakota, where he also served as the high school principal, and worked on his doctorate degree.
But after several winters in South Dakota, his wife was ready to move a little farther east, and Dr. Fuerstenau took a position for five years in Corning, IA, and later in a larger school district in North Cedar, IA.
"Then, out of the blue, a call came and asked if I was interested in looking at Taylorville," Dr. Fuerstenau said. "My kids were both young, and it was a chance to move closer to my wife's family, so we took it."
Fuerstenau said that both of his kids started and finished school at the Taylorville School District, where he served as superintendent for 13 years. He became just the fifth superintendent in the history of the Taylorville School District.
"Thirteen years is a pretty good run as a superintendent," said Dr. Fuerstenau, noting that in that same time period the Litchfield School District had five different superintendents.
"Looking at the situation with the Litchfield School District, I think it best matched my skill set as the next superintendent," he said. "I am able to bring experience with finances, facilities, technology and vocational programs."
He added that when he arrived in Taylorville, that district had struggles with budgets, giving the district a chance to work with the board of education and the community to develop a strategic plan.
"We were kind of reaching the end of that plan, and I had to make a professional decision to finish my career in Taylorville or look for an opportunity to lead another school district," Dr. Fuerstenau said. "Taylorville got a new school board and a new superintendent, and they have a new opportunity to plan for the future of that district."
One of the most important things he plans to work on in Litchfield is building communication between the district and the community. He is hoping to work with the board on some listening sessions, where board members will hear concerns from community members.
"It's an exciting period of time coming into a new district, with the opportunity to put together a new strategic plan and help educate the board and community," he said.
Dr. Fuerstenau added that another area of concern is facilities, and he plans to take a hard look at all the district buildings and how to make improvements toward the future. Among his other plans for the district are more vocational programming at the high school and dual credit classes with Lincoln Land Community College. He also hopes to work with local Head Start and preschool programs to make sure the district's youngest children are ready for kindergarten.
"Our job is to look at how do we best serve our students," he said. "It's about providing opportunities for our children."
At this time, Dr. Fuerstenau and his wife continue to reside in Taylorville, as his wife and daughter recover from a car accident last year.
“I informed the board during the interview process of my situation.” "But I promised to give 120 percent to the Litchfield district and I will."