This article originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on September 5, 2018. You can find the online version at SidneyDailyNews.com. The writer is Melanie Speicher.
His philosophy is simple. His job is “All about the kids.”
And with that simple statement, Bob Humble is off and running as the new superintendent for Sidney City Schools. Humble officially took over on Aug. 1.
“It’s been fantastic so far,” said Humble. “I love the folks here — the students, staff and community members. I’ve been getting to know the kids. I’ve been really busy, but I like being busy.”
Humble comes to Sidney from the Fairbanks School District where he was superintendent. He has tripled the number of students he is now responsible for from his previous district, which had 1,100 students.
His first month on the job has started a fact-gathering mission which he expects to last a year.
“I want to see how things are done before I make any changes,” said Humble. “I want to get to know the people and how and why they work the way they do.”
The Latchkey program, which is new to the district this year, is similar to a Panther Paws program in the Fairbanks School District. The Latchkey program provides before and after school childcare services for students enrolled in kindergarten through the fifth-grade in Sidney City Schools.
Humble said right now enrollment is a little low, but he expects it to increase as people learn more about the program.
“When they realize something is available, it will grow over time,” said Humble. “But it does have to be self-sustaining. The district provided seed money to get it started.”
The biggest challenge Humble faces is the passage of a renewal of an emergency tax levy on the November ballot.
“I’ve been putting together information,” said Humble. “My levy bible is almost complete. Meetings will be held the first part of September for the steering committee.”
He said they will be looking for donations for the campaign, which will be used to purchase signs and information that will be sent to the district’s voters.
“The school district is not allowed to send out anything with tax money,” said Humble.
Once the meetings are underway, he said the most vital part of the election will be to get anyone over the age of 18 registered to vote.
“Then we have to get all of our ‘yes’ voters to the polls,” he said. “The voters need to understand there is a need for it.”
The levy, said Humble, raises $4.5 million a year for the district.
“It would be devastating for the district for this money to be cut out of the budget,” he said.
Humble has made the rounds of all the school buildings in the district.
“The middle school is beautiful inside,” said Humble. “There is a cleanliness and well-kept grounds at all the buildings. It’s a great thing to see.”
But, Humble also knows that the age of the elementary schools is something the board will have to look at in the near future.
“The elementary buildings are old,” said Humble. “they are not designed for the way kids learn today. None of them have air conditioning.
“When you see a heat index of 100, we’ll be dismissing early,” he said.
And that is what has happened for at least four days since the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
“If the students are worried about being hot, they won’t learn,” said Humble. “Long term, we have to figure out something within the next couple of years.
“We also don’t have the learning spaces we need,” he said. “the buildings are not built they way kids learn today. We’ll have to figure out what the community wants us to do.”
The students in the district, he said, come first in every decision he makes.
“In the long term, we need to look at the facilities,” said Humble. “We need to raise the student achievement within the district.
“We’re losing students to open enrollment out of the district,” he said. “We need to bring them back.”
Humble said he is pleased with all the extracurricular activities the district offers its students.
“I’ve been to the boys and girls golf match, football and volleyball games,” he said.
On tap was a visit to the tennis matches and soccer games.
He’s also thrilled there’s a middle school orchestra and plans to attend some of their practices.
“I want to get out into the buildings as much as I can,” he said.
Humble began his teaching career as the band director and general music teacher at New Richmond Exempted Village Schools. He then taught at Bethel-Tate Local Schools as band director and assistant high school director. While he was teaching he was a mobile DJ on the weekends.
“The owner offered me a position and I set up a new office in Chicago,” he said. “It was a great opportunity for me.”
As he progressed through the company, he was in charge of all aspects of the business. After five years with the company, he started his own business with a partner.
“I worked on it for a couple of years and it took off in San Diego,” said Humble. At that point, Humble let his partners run the business and he stayed on as a part-owner.
“I went to Honeybaked Ham Company and moved up through the ranks,” said Humble. “I wanted to apply for an area supervisor job and didn’t get it, so I went back into teaching.”
He said he brings a unique outlook to the superintendent’s job: he has the education background and the business background to move the Sidney School District into the future.
“I come not just from an education world,” said Humble. “I’ve been out in the world and can see how things work. I’ve worked with vendors and leases that bought equipment. I’ve started offices all over the country. I think this is great for me as a superintendent.
“I can see things through their (businesses, vendors) eyes,” he said. “I can negotiate with teacher’s unions and companies.”
When he returned to teaching, he taught K-6 general music in the Grant County Schools. He was there for four years. It was there that he met his future wife, Wendy, who was teaching first, second and third grade in the same district.
“This is the third time we’ve taught in the same school district,” said Humble. “She was a teacher while I was a high school principal.”
His wife was hired by the board of education in July to teach fourth-grade at Whittier Elementary School on the recommendation of former Superintendent John Scheu.
Humble commended Scheu and local law enforcement for their establishment of school security and a first responder team in each building.
“John Scheu was instrumental in the way security works here,” said Humble. “It’s difficult for any type of tragedy to happen. He’s done a really good job to protect the kids and staff. Sidney is a leader in school security.”
Humble, who holds a conceal/carry license, said the district’s security system was what drew him to apply for the superintendent’s position.
“I’ve met with the sheriff (John Lenhart) and the police chief (Will Balling),” said Humble. “The Sidney police will be coming into the buildings. The sheriff is in favor of that. He wants us all to get along.
“We all have a common goal and that’s to protect our kids.”
Humble said he has also met with Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst and members of city council.
One thing Humble wants to accomplish is to bring back the fifth-grade DARE program.
Humble said one challenge he faces is getting more parents involved in school activities and in their children’s education.
“We have to do a better job of communicating with the parents,” he said. “We need to reach out to the parents directly and maybe they’d be more willing to help.
“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “We need to get the parents involved and help their kids to learn and achieve.”
The Humbles are the parents of two children, Ty and Joel, and have four grandchildren, Lio, Emma, Mason and Eli.
The couple has relocated to Sidney.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Humble. “The community is fantastic. Private money was used to renovate the football stadium. There’s plans under way to put air conditioning in the high school auditorium and music wing. I’m thrilled to be in a district that has an orchestra.
“It’s all about the kids,” he said.