After a longer-than-usual summer, Crawford Public Schools opened its 2017-18 academic year last week, with a new superintendent at the helm and a renovated elementary school.
Kirk Hughes, a 1977 Hay Springs High School graduate, came on board over the summer as the new superintendent after the district finished last year with an interim superintendent following the August 2016 death of Richard Taedter from cancer.
Hughes graduated from Chadron State College in 1983 with an undergraduate degree in biology and Earth science, intending to work as a geologist in the energy field. An energy bust in Wyoming interrupted his plans, however, and he went to work for Woodland Construction in Chadron before returning to CSC for his teaching endorsement and master’s of science in education degree. He also received his elementary school administration and specialist in education degrees from CSC.
After teaching seventh through 10th grade science at Leyton for three years, Hughes spent another three at that district as elementary principal before taking the position of middle school principal in Glenrock, Wyo., in 1991. He assumed the superintendent role in that district in 1998, where he remained until his move to Crawford. Hughes was a finalist for Wyoming Superintendent of the Year in 2005-06.
With struggles in the mining industry hitting the state’s educational system hard, Glenrock was faced with eliminating $1.2 million from its budget. Since 80 percent of any district’s budget is personnel, the school was looking at cutting staff, including one administrative position.
“I decided I was the one who needed to be reduced,” Hughes said, which allowed the district to consolidate administrative positions.
Still, he decided he was too young to retire and when he learned Crawford was searching for a superintendent it seemed like a good opportunity to relocate closer to family. His mother-in-law resides at Crestview in Chadron, while his mom is still at home on the family ranch.
“My roots are in western Nebraska. It’s coming home, so to speak,” he said.
His new district is facing financial struggles of its own as the valuation of Crow Butte Mine continues to decline. The district lost $3.2 million in valuation this year, and is likely going to have to increase its levy a bit at its meeting in September, Hughes said.
“Long-term, the mine’s valuation is something we’re going to have to deal with,” he added.
Hughes is still settling in to his new district, getting to know the students and patrons, and learning the budgeting process, which is quite different from Wyoming’s.
A major renovation of the district’s elementary school over the summer, which necessitated a delayed start to the school year, removed asbestos tiles from the facility, improved lighting, carpeted classrooms and added air conditioning. The north wing of the elementary was also remodeled to include a hallway, formally closing off classrooms and giving them proper entries, which previously did not exist. A set of handicapped accessible restrooms were also added in that wing.
The project isn’t quite complete. The multipurpose room and kitchen still need to be remodeled, which Hughes hopes to oversee next summer.
He and his wife, Linda, have three children and two grandchildren in three states, with whom they enjoy spending time. He also enjoys sporting events and outdoor activities.