“You know, it’s funny,” Dr. Brad Welle remarks with a chuckle before taking a sip of coffee, “I’m always so focused on hearing and telling other people’s stories that I don’t really tell mine.” That is a nod to Dr. Welle’s commitment to a balanced relationship with the community through regular engagement throughout his years in the Grain Valley School District.
Starting on July 1, Welle will become the Superintendent of Schools for Grain Valley Schools. Welle says that the transition has been smooth up to this point and he owes that in part to Dr. Snow.
“Dr. Snow and I have always worked so closely together; he has always been a great mentor and coach to me. He’s always valued my reaction and input on things,” Dr. Welle says, “through Dr. Snow’s mentorship, it’s really been informal training and has prepared me to become superintendent.”
As for challenges facing the district, Welle says one of the top challenges in upcoming years will be retaining current staff and acquiring new staff members. This is not a Grain Valley problem but a nationwide problem as the number of teachers leaving the profession is growing steadily while the demand for teachers is also growing.
Welle notes that Grain Valley Schools has been somewhat “immune” to the teaching shortages although they have noticed applicant numbers declining for the open positions in the district.
He also says in comparison of the larger suburban schools in the area, “they have very different budgets, and we cannot out pay them but we can’t lose ground and we are staying competitive.” He says that the federal funding money that has come over the last few years has helped with that.
Welle says that one of his plans to help deal with these challenges is “over the next 12 months we will take a deep dive into our state funding, which makes up about half of our overall funding, and we need to make predictions moving forward with our district and staff’s needs and growth in mind.” He also wants to share everything with the community and be transparent along the way.
Speaking to retaining the teaching staff in the district, Welle notes that teachers come to and stay in Grain Valley, “not because of the pay, but to be in a community where education is valued, they are appreciated for what they do, and the engagement within the community… all of our teachers are part of a team where they have a support structure and an administration that will be there to back them up.”
Welle says the district focuses so much on the behind-the-scenes things that make the district a great place to work for staff because if Grain Valley is a great place to work and the staff is excited to be there, it will in turn be a great place to be a kid and to learn.
Another goal of Welle’s in the short term is to make parents and grandparents welcome in the schools again, something that was a negative outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic, parents and grandparents have not been able to come to the schools as often as they once could.
“We have a responsibility to get them back in our schools,” Welle says, “the elementary kids want their parents or their grandparents to be able to come up to the school and have lunch with them, we want people to feel welcomed visiting our schools and volunteering in our schools, and that’s something that has been missing.”
One of the main things Welle wants parents and the community to know during this time of transition is that his door is always open. “I’m available, if you want to call, if you want to email, if you want to meet, if you are curious in any way, you can reach out to me directly and I will be available."
Welle states that it will give him a chance to know what people are feeling, where they see the district going, and it is always very helpful in determining plans for the next school year.
Overall, Welle says he is looking forward to the school year ahead. Right now, his message to students and staff is “get your rest, take a break, take care of yourself, come back and let’s get to work!”
Dr. Brad Welle begins his tenure as Superintendent of Grain Valley Schools on July 1st.
Photo credit: Grain Valley Schools