Petersen hired to lead GMG

Kimballton native immediately takes over for interim superintendent Gary Sinclair

Newly-hired GMG Superintendent Chris Petersen smiles while standing just outside the Green Mountain Elementary main office on Wednesday, March 20, during what was his very first day in the district. Next school year, GMG and nearby Baxter Community School District will share Petersen as superintendent. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

GREEN MOUNTAIN – The Green Mountain-Garwin Community School District is hoping third time’s a charm when it comes to new superintendents this school year.

Last week Monday (March 18), Kimballton native Chris Petersen, 42, was officially hired as GMG superintendent, replacing interim superintendent Gary Sinclair who was hired in February to replace the district’s previous interim superintendent Joel Pedersen.

Pedersen, Chief Administrator at Central Rivers AEA, voluntarily led the district in the wake of former GMG superintendent Kym Stein taking medical leave last December. Stein officially resigned in February.

During a special meeting of the GMG school board on March 7, a motion was approved to enter into a superintendent sharing agreement with Baxter Community School District beginning next school year while also hiring Petersen for the remainder of this current school year.

It’s safe to say it’s been a long three months for this small, rural public school district based in Green Mountain which is something Petersen himself acknowledged on Wednesday, March 20 while speaking with the newspaper during his first official day in the district.

“This is my very first day. The first day is always a little overwhelming. My goal here was to get my face in front of as many staff members as possible,” Petersen said while standing in the hallway just outside the district offices at Green Mountain Elementary.

When asked what attracted him to the GMG position he admitted that needing to find a sharing partner for Baxter was part of the calculation but that he also feels at home in smaller districts like GMG.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about [GMG]. Getting to talk to Gary Sinclair is what did it for me and the great things he had to say about [the district]. I’m a very big rural public school advocate. … I think it’s important to note, also, my last 15 years in education, that’s what I’ve known and been a part of – [shared superintendents].”

Petersen comes by his affinity for rural public schools honestly, hailing from the storied Petersen teaching/coaching clan of the Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton Community School District where many of his relatives – including his dad, the beloved but now retired head baseball/girls basketball/junior high football coach Tony Petersen – still teach.

“My entire family has been in education.”

After graduating high school from what was then Elk Horn-Kimballton, Petersen earned his teaching degree in social science education in 2004 from Buena Vista University before later earning a Master’s degree in educational administration from UNI followed by his superintendent endorsement from Wayne State College.

Close to a year ago, Petersen and his wife Chloe – a Gilman native who is currently pregnant with their fourth child due in May – relocated to the Des Moines area to be closer to family. Prior to the move, Petersen spent the previous 11 years working for two small school districts where he donned plenty of different hats.

His most recent appointment was PK-12 principal at Ar-We-Va Community School District in west central Iowa. He spent close to five years at the rural public school district that serves the communities of Arcadia, Westside, and Vail in Crawford and Carroll counties.

While at Ar-We-Va he also worked as transportation director, director of buildings and grounds, curriculum director, special education director, and head varsity football coach – a role in which he took teams twice to within one game of the Dome.

Before that, Petersen worked for Paton-Churdan Community School District for six years as both a high school social studies teacher and the district’s activities director.

Since leaving Ar-We-Va at the end of the 2022-23 school year and moving to Ankeny, Petersen has worked for SitelogIQ as an educational consultant with the ultimate goal, he said, of getting back into the public schools.

Petersen said at this point the plan is for him to spend one day per week at GMG through the end of the school year and then “maybe two days per week” at both GMG and Baxter next school year.

“We’ll iron out the sharing details soon for next year.”

He also said that Gary Sinclair will continue assisting the school board during the superintendent transition.

Even in the face of so much upheaval this past school year, Petersen said from his vantage point he sees a bright future for GMG.

Asked if he might consider dusting off his coaching credentials anytime soon for either school district, Petersen grinned widely before shaking his head ‘no’ and chuckling.

“I got out of coaching.”

Fair enough.

Both Superintendent Petersen and former interim superintendent Gary Sinclair plan to attend the April 8 meeting of the GMG Board of Education which is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the secondary building in Garwin.