CRETE – Crete Public Schools has found its new superintendent.
Dr. Joshua McDowell, who’d most recently been serving as the Chief Transformation Officer at Grand Island Public Schools, has worked in many roles over the years from classroom teacher to district administrator, with a focus on helping all students succeed.
He will bring that passion and focus to the Cardinals in 2019-2020.
“Prior to that, I had served as the chief academic officer for Grand Island Public schools for two years,” McDowell said. “I had the opportunity to oversee everything from curriculum and obstruction, assessment accountability, all federal programs and special education. I gained a tremendous wealth of experience and responsibility in that role.”
After a little while, Grand Island Public superintendent Tawana Grover had McDowell transition into the role of chief transformation officer, where he got to “lead change on a daily basis” and made sure Grand Island Public Schools was on the “cutting edge,” in terms of teamwork and leadership.
All to ensure that GIPS “was providing the most relevant experiences for kids.”
McDowell, a Grand Island native, grew up in a single-mom, low-income environment.
“I am the poster child for never say never,” he said. “I remember on graduation day from Grand Island Senior High, saying ‘I’m never coming back,’ and I’ve been here the last 14 years.”
He calls his public education a saving grace.
“If you look statistically, there’s no way I should have even ever had the opportunity to apply and become a superintendent in Nebraska,” McDowell said. “Public education was my saving grace, because it was all about caring people who saw potential in me and refused to let me fail.
“They gave me opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities. I could go through names of teachers and individuals who were just so committed to me. I am where I am today, because of them.”
He also credits his mother, as every good son should.
“She’s an amazing lady,” McDowell said. “I’d like to believe I get my work ethic from her. She’s 71 years old, and just finished working. She went back to school when I was in 6th grade, got her degree in nursing and has been a nurse ever since.
“My belief on public education is ‘all means all.’ I don’t care where you’re from, or what your goals and your dreams are. It’s our job to help support you and get there.”
Married to his wife Jessica, an elementary teacher and varsity cross country coach at Grand Island, and a father of two children Aiden (7th grade) and Allison (4th grade), McDowell had many options for potential superintendent jobs this past winter.
Something about Crete felt right. It’s where he and Jessica met during their college days at Doane.
“There were a lot of what I would consider good superintendent jobs open this year,” McDowell said. “But, those weren’t the jobs for us. But, when the Crete job came open, we literally had this moment where we looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got to go after it.’
“We both ended up at Doane, and we just felt like people (in Crete) were embracing us, and wouldn’t let us fail. So, this was the perfect opportunity for us to say, ‘Alright. This is our turn to give back to a community that has given so much to us.”
With a vast background in, and a passion for public education, McDowell is eager to bring that energy and care to Crete.
“Crete’s a great school system,” he said. “I believe that the experiences I’ve had in my work at Grand Island Public and my ability to build teams and rally people around a vision and a mission – I’m just excited to bring that to Crete and see what we can accomplish together.”
McDowell earned his bachelor’s degree from Doane University in 2003, his master’s in educational administration from Doane in 2008 and then his doctorate of education degree in interdisciplinary leadership from Creighton University in 2017.
He replaces superintendent Mike Waters, who announced his resignation from Crete in late February.
McDowell and his wife will finish out the school year at G.I.P.S, but they just sold their house this past week, and will begin looking for a new home in Crete this weekend.
A town that both Josh and Jessica both called home as Doane students not so long ago. But, now is the time for a new beginning and new relationships.
“If we’re going to accomplish great things and help the community move forward, it’s all about building relationships,” McDowell said. “I’m looking forward to getting to Crete, getting settled in and working on building those relationships that are going to best help kids moving forward.”
Hear the full interview with Dr. McDowell below:
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