Johnson County School District No.1 Superintendent Jim Wagner announced Monday night that he will not seek to renew his three-year contract that expires at the end of the school year. 

Wagner made the announcement at the school board meeting, saying he was notifying the board now because it is in the best interest of the district to “provide sufficient time for the board to begin the process of finding the next superintendent.”

Wagner came to Johnson County in September 2018 after four years as superintendent of Kimball Area Public Schools in Minnesota, according to previous Bulletin reporting. Wagner began his educational career in Minnesota as a science teacher and high school principal.

In Johnson County, Wagner’s tenure saw an increase in schools meeting state standards and an expansion in facilities, such as the welding shop at Buffalo High School, and programs, such as the CNA and CDL courses. The district also launched New West, an alternative high school, during Wagner’s tenure. Wagner also initiated a survey to district parents to gauge interest in moving Buffalo schools to a four-day school week. That effort ultimately resulted in the schools’ current early dismissal time on Fridays.

Wagner also oversaw the district’s response to COVID-19, which included months of at-home learning last spring and the successful reopening of schools for in-person instruction all year this year.

But Wagner’s tenure was also filled with some uncertainty as he was a finalist for multiple out of state superintendent jobs in 2020 and 2021.

In early 2020, Wagner was a finalist for two superintendent jobs in Minnesota, according to previous Bulletin reporting.

And on Feb. 3 of this year, Wagner was included in a final list of candidates for the superintendent position of Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools, also in Minnesota.

After Wagner’s announcement Monday night, district trustees took the first step in beginning the search process, voting unanimously to seek assistance from the Wyoming School Boards Association in the search. Board Chairman Dave Belus said he would contact Brian Farmer, the association’s executive director, to begin that process. Belus also thanked Wagner for his service to the district.

“This is a sad day for Johnson County...” Belus said. “Every decision Mr. Wagner has made has put kids first and this is an indication of an excellent leader for our school district.”

Ryan Hanrahan joined the Bulletin in October 2020 and covers county government, schools and health care. If you have ideas or feedback, reach out at ryan@buffalobulletin.com.

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