‘A 50-pound weight’: Nampa’s interim superintendent feels the pressure of his new role

Nampa’s new interim superintendent Gregg Russell is honored to lead the state’s third largest district, but he’s also feeling the pressure.

“It feels like a 50-pound weight that’s kind of put on you, the responsibility of that,” Russell told Idaho EdNews on Monday, his first day on the job.

Russell, who had been Nampa’s assistant superintendent, was selected to fill the interim role through the end of the school year. He says he’ll apply for the job when it opens. Trustees could open the position at the end of the school year or let Russell extend his interim contract for another year, Board chair Jeff Kirkman said Monday.

Meanwhile, trustees have started working to fill an open seat on the board left after trustee Mike Kipp resigned last week.

Kipp’s departure, and last Friday’s abrupt resignation of Superintendent Paula Kellerer, came weeks into the tenure of three newly elected trustees, who took office January after winning races marked by mask mandate backlash. The newcomers — Jeff Kirkman, Brook Taylor and Tracey Pearson — banded together in leadership elections at the first board meeting last month, electing Kirkman as chair and Pearson as vice chair on 3-2 votes.

The new chair and vice chair replaced sitting board members Mandy Simpson as chair and Kipp as vice chair. Kipp resigned four days before Kellerer’s exit, citing the toll of pandemic-related discussions.

Russell is the sixth superintendent (including interims) to lead Nampa in less than a decade. The streak of turnovers began in 2012 when Gary Larsen left as the district faced a budget shortfall that grew to $4.3 million, as Idaho EdNews previously reported.

Russell jumps into the job with a lot of tasks on the horizon, including hiring season, planning for strategic goals, salary negotiations and more.

He’s also feeling the weight of asking voters to approve an $8 million levy proposal on the March 8 ballot. The levy would replace an existing one that helps sustain staffing and other operations.

“There is a great honor in running any school district and being a part of that,” he said, “but there’s also a great amount of pressure as well, to make sure that everyone in the community and our students and our staff get the support that they need.”

Russell worked for Nampa for 12 years as a teacher and administrator, according to his bio on the district’s website. He became a professor at Northwest Nazarene University in 2014 but rejoined the district as assistant superintendent in 2017.

The district will post the form to fill Kipp’s vacancy on Monday or Tuesday, Kirkman said. The application will include a deadline. Trustees don’t plan to discuss the board vacancy at their next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 14, Kirkman added.  

Kellerer, who had been superintendent since 2017, on Friday asked the board for a “mutual separation.” She has no financial agreement with the district, so her next paycheck will be her last, said district spokesperson Kathleen Tuck. EdNews has asked for a copy of the interim contract between Russell and the district. 

Idaho EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed reporting.

Kyle Pfannenstiel

Kyle Pfannenstiel

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the implementation of policy in Idaho’s K-12 public school system. He’s a military brat and former health care reporter who holds degrees in Journalism and Political Science from University of Idaho. Follow Kyle on Twitter @pfannyyy. He can be reached at [email protected].

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