Many in the community have known Mr. Stafford to be the person that calls when school is cancelled on snow days, been the substitute bus driver for their children, or welcomed them to various events at the school. He has served in the Vienna school district for the last 11 years as curriculum director, track coach, teacher, technology director, and in the business office.
When asked about his previous duties Stafford said, “I have been asked by several people what exactly it is that I do at the school and my response has generally been ‘whatever needs to be done.’”
The board has now met him with the new challenge of a combined superintendent/principal role.
Board President John Summers shared in a statement, “I am very thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Mr. Shoemate and Mr. Harner and I appreciate their hard work and dedication to Vienna. As Mr. Shoemate assumes the position of superintendent over Cobden Schools and Mr. Harner takes on the duties of being the director at Five County regional Vocational System we wish them the best. Due to state funding cuts we are trying to find creative ways to keep our school financially sound while maintaining meaningful programs for students. Developing this new dual role will be challenging and look different than what our school has had in the past, but we believe that we have the right person with Mr. Stafford at the helm to take on the challenges.”
Vienna’s board started their search for a new administrator in April. After reviewing several candidates the board narrowed their search to three, with Stafford being the finalist.
Mr. Stafford shared about his new appointment, “I count it a privilege to continue in service to this community and look forward to carrying on the tradition of excellence that has already been established.”
Stafford is a Johnson County native with a lineage back to William Simpson, who is noted as being the first settler of the county.
Stafford graduated from both Vienna High and Vienna Grade School. He continued his education with the completion of his associate’s degree at Shawnee Community College, bachelor’s degree at Murray State University, earned his master’s degree and principal’s endorsement at McKendree University, and completed his superintendent’s endorsement at Eastern Illinois University.
Schools in Illinois have been faced with state funding decreases over the last five years.
When asked about the financial challenges that are facing schools Mr. Stafford expressed his concern, “Bottom line is that we can’t receive a nickel in revenue and spend a dime. Due to various issues at the state level students in Illinois are suffering from unfulfilled and under fulfilled commitments when it comes to adequate funding for their education. In the interim period of the state resolving these issues we must monitor revenue and expenses while ensuring the success of our students through sound financial decision making, retaining and selecting the most competent staff, exploring alternative revenue sources, and working collaboratively with the entire community in determining the future direction of the school.”
He went on to explain, “Schools across the state are at a critical point in terms of financial stability. I am committed to providing a quality education to our students. As a county we must seriously examine all available options and determine what the future of our educational system will be prior to outside forces coming in and doing that for us.”
Vienna High School has been noted both regionally and throughout the state for their strong dual credit college programs, which Mr. Stafford has led in his position as curriculum director for the district.
Stafford commented, “The outstanding achievements of our students in the dual credit program cannot be attributed to me, but are made possible by the hard work and dedication of our teachers and staff that have proven their willingness to put in work, research, and commitment so that our students are provided with the best possible opportunities to prepare for their future. As students see and understand the value of what our staff has worked so hard to offer, they, in turn, step up to the plate and demonstrate the same hard work and dedication.” Vienna has had multiple students graduate with their associates degree and high school diploma over the last three years.
Stafford also said, “While our dual credit program is in great shape it is just one of many things that Vienna High School does well.”
Stafford wanted the community to know, “My door is always open. I view my role as being the person that helps to remove hurdles and obstacles so that our teachers, staff, and students can be successful, which in turn makes our entire community successful.” He invited anyone that has helpful advice to come by and see him.
Stafford’s appointment was approved by a unanimous vote on Monday, May 18, and he will officially take the office of superintendent on July 1.