Getting involved in the community and making the district stronger are two of the many goals new Montezuma Community Schools Superintendent, Rich Schulte, has on the agenda.
Schulte, who will take the reins of the district on July 1, brings with him a strong background in teaching, leadership and building relationships. He also brings with him an extensive background in coaching.
“I think it is important to build relationships with the people you work with,” Schulte said. ”Without building relationships, you can’t build trust. Without trust it is hard to build a team and help students succeed.”
Schulte is a native of Pella and 1988 graduate of Pella High School. He attended Central College in Pella, where he played football and baseball for the Dutch.
It was at Central that Schulte had a brief stint in professional baseball. In 1991, his junior year, Schulte was drafted by the Houston Astros.
“I played in the Astro’s minor league system in New York, Florida, Burlington and for the Quad City River Bandits,” he said.
After a year in the minor leagues, Schulte opted to leave baseball and return to Central, where he graduated in November 1993 with a degree in elementary education.
“You dream of it as a kid and you get a chance to live it out for a while,” Schulte said of playing professional baseball.
Following college graduation, Schulte served as a substitute teacher and also served as a volunteer coach with the Montezuma Braves football program and coach Darrell Brand during the 1993 season.
He landed his first teaching job at Ackley-Geneva in the fall of 1994 where he taught fifth-grade and served as an assistant football coach, assistant volleyball coach and head golf coach for the district.
After a year at Ackley-Geneva, Schulte returned to Pella where he taught fifth grade for four years through 1999.
He then joined Vermeer in Pella as a training development specialist and at the same time returned to Drake University to work towards a master’s degree in education leadership.
After two years at Vermeer, Schulte learned that his job was being eliminated. That led him to join Provant Media, a company that produced training videos. He spent one year at Provant as a product manager while completing his master’s program at Drake. The company has since closed.
In 2002, Schulte interviewed and was hired as elementary principal at Clear Creek Elementary School. After two years in Amana, he received a call from a board member in Knoxville and interviewed for the elementary principal position at West Elementary.
“I started there in 2004,” he said.
He noted that each move he has made in his career came through a network of contacts he built through his experiences and teaching positions.
Three years later in 2007, Schulte received a call from the Pella superintendent who offered him a position as assistant principal and special education coordinator for the district at both Lincoln and Madison elementary schools.
During his time in that position, Schulte noted that he played a part in making decisions in the special education program in the district.
After one year in that position, Schulte took over the principal position at Lincoln Elementary in Pella and stayed there for the next 12 years.
“I went to Lincoln Elementary as a kid,” he said. “So, it was like coming back to where I started.”
While at Lincoln Elementary, Schulte returned to Drake University a second time, where he earned a specialist degree for a superintendent position, graduating in 2010.
In June 2020, during the pandemic year, Schulte left Pella and joined the staff at the Great Prairie AEA in Ottumwa. His current position is director of district services.
“I supervise a group of regional directors that support schools in Southeast Iowa,” he said of his job.
Schulte decided to apply for the Montezuma superintendent position, thanks in part to the current Montezuma superintendent, Nathan Wood.
“He encouraged me to take a look at the job,” Schulte said. “The district is in great shape and it is a good community. This is basically in my backyard. I felt like the district is a great fit for me.”
When asked what led him to enter the education field, Schulte said his dad was a recreation director in Pella for 17 years and also coached and taught recreation courses at Central College.
“My mom was a preschool teacher in Pella, Leighton and Otley for 29 years,” he said.
His brother was a high school math teach for more than 30 years and his sister taught preschool and first grade for 30 years.
“I was surrounded by teachers,” said Schulte. “It was something that I enjoyed and something I felt like I could do well. I love making connections with kids and inspiring them to be better students and people.”
Once at Montezuma, Schulte said he plans to spend time getting to know the people in the school and community as well as the school board.
“I plan to take a look at the district goals and see if they are the goals we should be working on,” he said. “If not, we need to develop and base goals on that moving forward.”
Schulte is married to Kara, a front office administrator assistant at Pella High School. The couple has four children, Jake, a sophomore at Central College; Drew, a freshman at Iowa State; Cam, a junior at Pella High School; and Brooke, an eighth-grader at Pella.
Schulte said he and his family will remain in Pella and he will commute to Montezuma.
Schulte said he is ready to get to work in Montezuma.
“I wish I could get in there and be a part of the community and start working with the board now,” he noted. “The hardest thing right now is waiting. I am excited about getting started and seeing how I can make the district stronger.”