HAZEL GREEN—The Southwestern School Board chose the superintendent who will replace Dr. James Egan, who is retiring this summer. The board chose from its current staff: John Costello, the elementary/middle school principal.
The position starts July 1. Egan will stay until Aug. 15 to help with the transition.
“Dr. Egan was retiring and we had discussed the possibility of that position being open,” Costello said. “I started courses to get my certificate as a district administrator. The position opened up and I interviewed for it and the board hired me.”
Costello started his career teaching fifth grade at a parochial school in Mauston, then two years later he moved to the New Lisbon School District where he was the at-risk coordinator and taught special education, physical education and health. He started his master’s degree in administration and worked as a behavior intervention specialist in the Elroy School District. From there he took the elementary principal position at Southwestern School District, starting four years ago.
“When I became the principal here, it felt like the perfect fit for me, like home,” Costello said. “When I interviewed for the position, it just seemed like it was a warm welcome from staff and the school board. Sometimes you just know it’s the place you want to be. When the opportunity presented itself to move into the superintendent position, I thought why not? It’s a great opportunity and I love being here. It will give me an opportunity to stick around for a long time, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
He wants to provide the consistency for the school to make a long-lasting impact.
“I’m really looking forward to serving the district and community as their leader,” Costello said. “I have an open door policy and I believe it’s important for everyone to understand that they can call at any time.”
Costello said as a principal, he is responsible for just his building; as district administrator he will be responsible for the whole district, including bridging the community with the school district.
“A stronger connection between the school and community is very effective,” Costello said. “Community members need to know what is going on in our school. They need to have an active role in participating and sharing ideas and thoughts, being part of the solution in education. The school is something that ties the entire community together in some way. If we can have a real strong community and school relationship, I think our school becomes a lot stronger in that aspect.”
He said he anticipates learning more about the school’s budget and following the state legislation as it pertains to the school. He plans to work with the school board to create a strategic plan for the school district to outline goals pertaining to curriculum, technology, staff development and salary schedules.
“I know my role is going to be totally different because I would deal with staff members and students on a consistent basis and in the superintendent position, my role will be more meetings and it won’t be dealing with the day-to-day operations with students and staff,” Costello said. “I will miss that. I’ll work closely with the administration to make sure we are meeting our goals.”
Costello said he plans to continue coaching as long as it’s feasible and doesn’t affect his role as superintendent.
“I really enjoy it, but I know that my day job comes first,” Costello said.
Costello has two children who are both attending Viterbo University. He currently lives in Dubque, but plans to move into the district.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Costello said. “I'm excited about the change in the direction of the district. Almost all of my decisions are based on what is best for the students. Without the students, none of us would have a job. That’s what we need to focus our ideas and goals around.”
Costello, a native of Lansing, Iowa, earned his bachelor degree in education at Winona State University and a master’s degree at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. He later earned his administration certificate through Viterbo University.
“This is an opportunity to learn and grow professionally, and know that the decisions that you make are making a lasting effect on students,” Costello said.