MIDDLETON — New Superintendent Josh Middleton plans to focus on transparency and curriculum development to smooth the leadership transition in a growing Canyon County district.
“I’m really excited to be involved in just making our business as transparent as possible,” Middleton said. “That starts with some really basic things like getting as much on our (district’s) website as possible, including school district documents, board policies, board minutes. We really want to partner with the community.”
Middleton, 53, arrives after retiring from education in Montana. There, he worked as a principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent in the Billings and Laurel school districts. He spent eight years as Laurel’s superintendent.
Middleton moved to Arizona in 2014, seeking a warmer climate for his late wife as she battled illness.
After about a year’s sabbatical, Middleton vowed to return to education and a new beginning. He was attracted to the opening in Middleton because the community reminded him of Laurel, Mont., and he enjoys life in the mountains and the West.
“I just wanted to return to this size of community and school district,” Middleton said. “(In Laurel) I knew every teacher, and I was involved in the hiring of quality teachers and really involved in the community.”
Middleton moved to Idaho in May, and spent a month quietly getting to know the area and his neighbors before working with Bauscher on the transition.
“I do live right here in Middleton,” he said. “I see that as an opportunity, for one, to be close to work and to be close to the schools. I really want to participate in the community and to be at the sporting events.”
Middleton holds a doctorate in education from Montana State University. He earned a master’s from Nova Southeastern University in Florida and a bachelor’s from the University of Utah.
He began his education career in 1986, as a high school social studies teacher in Florida.
Away from school, Middleton is an amateur photographer who loves to hike and camp and lists Glacier National Park as one of his favorite places on Earth. He also grew up playing hockey, and remains a devoted fan of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Scott Anderson, who has known Middleton for more than a decade and worked with him in Billings, described Middleton as one of the best leaders he has ever worked with.
The two became acquainted when they worked in neighboring school districts. Later, they worked together for about two years when Middleton was assistant superintendent in Billings.
“He came in and he listened to the people here and what our needs were, which I found extremely refreshing,” said Anderson, who heads up the district’s career-technical education programs.
Around his colleagues, Middleton developed a reputation as a calming influence when difficult decisions needed to be made. He also earned respect for his ability to empathize with co-workers and students.
“He was, without question, a team player who was also a solid leader,” Anderson said. “I would work for him or with him again any time.”
Middleton will likely need to tap his leadership and community engagement skills during his first year on the job. Responding to new home construction and enrollment growth, Middleton plans to work with the school board to run a bond issue for a new elementary school. Pending board approval, the bond issue could go before voters as early as March, in hopes of opening the school in August 2018.
Middleton has also filled out the district’s leadership team, hiring veteran Idaho school superintendent Dan Arriola to serve as personnel director and assistant superintendent. Arriola, who recently worked on federal programs in Emmett, succeeds Mike Friend, who retired this summer alongside Bauscher.
With back-to-school on the horizon, Middleton said his immediate goals are to learn from his neighbors and colleagues.
“I want the community to know I have an open-door policy,” he said. “I do want to meet with them and I want to hear from them, both what is going well from their perspective and what concerns they see.”