A leisurely farewell
Although Superintendent Lee Leiker announced his impending resignation Monday, he won’t be leaving Marion-Florence USD 408 until the end of his contract in June. That’s a good thing for both him and us.
Leiker said the district in good shape, so it’s a good time to transition to new leadership. While we agree with his assessment, we’re also coming off a tumultuous year in Topeka relative to school finance, and the dust hasn’t completely settled.
Outside the school board meeting room, folks may not be aware of just how adept Leiker has been in steering the district’s finances. Last year was by no means the first financial challenge the state has tossed his direction, and he’s had to contend with declining enrollment as well, which affects the bottom line.
The lows haven’t been quite as low as some other districts, thanks to Leiker’s steady hand. He hasn’t let the highs get too high, either, a good practice to avoid making the next dip down not feel like driving off a cliff.
It’s good for us that he’ll be around to see existing financial issues through and clear the decks so his successor can fully concentrate on whatever madness the legislature concocts in the spring for the next school year.
The district is losing more than a superintendent; Leiker has been coordinating transportation. That’s a combination not likely to be found in candidates vying to replace him. The ideal solution will be to find someone in-house to take over, with ample time for Leiker to groom them to the job. Of course, Leiker’s accustomed to dealing with less than ideal, so he may have another direction in mind.
I’ve always had a relationship with Leiker that’s allowed me to drop by the district office unannounced and bend his ear about something we’ve been reporting. I’ve always appreciated his candor, as well as his discretion.
But when the time comes, what I’ll miss the most is watching him weave through the stands after games at Warrior Stadium or the Sports and Aquatics Center, trash bag in hand, picking up stray cups, programs, and whatever else he might find. He’s not alone in that regard, as other district staff pitch in, too, as do students.
What other superintendent does that? The first time I saw him do it, years ago, he told me that custodial staff had enough to do after a game without having to deal with all that extra trash. It’s one of the best examples of good stewardship and good leadership he will leave behind.
It’s good for Leiker that he’s given us all this much advance warning. There won’t be any jolting good-byes, no abrupt departure. The tasks and trials won’t be any less, but he’ll have time to enjoy things just a bit more. He’s also the sort that would hate walking out with loose ends dangling, so he can take care of those and prepare staff and patrons for a smooth transition.
It’s good that those of us who have appreciated his leadership these past 13 years will have ample time to space out telling him thank you. If we all did it at once, he probably couldn’t handle the overload.
From a former educator to a future former educator, thanks Lee. But not goodbye. Not yet.
— david colburn
Last modified Nov. 17, 2016