Geneseo High School’s next principal, Tom Ryerson, and his wife, Anne, have three children: Nate, a junior, Nile, a freshman, and Novak, in 5th grade.

Geneseo High School will have a new principal this fall.

Tom Ryerson will return to the district and take on the role at GHS, a hire that was made official with Board of Education approval on Thursday night.

Ryerson, who has served as Director for Instructional Programs for Moline-Coal Valley School District #40 since 2016, will replace Travis Mackey, who has been principal since 2017. Ryerson knows the district well, having been principal at Southwest and Millikin Elementary Schools between 2011 and 2016. He was also the assistant principal at Geneseo Middle School from 2008 to 2011.

“Tom really stood out and he was unanimously selected as our top choice,” notes superintendent Dr. Adam Brumbaugh. “He has a high level of familiarity with our district, and he understands the culture. Tom previously worked here as an administrator, and he gained valuable experience and perspective as an administrator in Moline. He’s an excellent fit.”

For Ryerson, who has a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Iowa, leaving a school district with 15 schools and 7,243 students for a smaller district—his hometown district—was an easy decision.

“Being an administrator in the community in which I live is very appealing,” Ryerson explains. “It’s personal for me because my kids are in these schools. I really like the small town feel and the relationships that exist with the community, the teachers and the students. Those aspects are what really attracted me and made me want to come back.”

Ryerson and his wife, Anne, have three children—Novak is in 5th grade, Nile is a high school freshman, and Nate is a high school junior. His enthusiasm for his new role is in part due to the high level of parental involvement throughout the district.

“When we talk about student education, it’s a partnership with the parents and the community,” says Ryerson of the culture within Geneseo schools. “It’s collaborative, close-knit, and a shared effort when it comes to decisions and vision. There is a genuine team approach where everyone has a voice and can be involved.”

Among Ryerson’s top initial priorities will be building relationships and trust with the high school’s staff, students and parents while continuing to advocate a welcoming and safe learning environment.

“The relationship piece leads to a positive working environment,” notes Ryerson. “If you don’t have relationships with all your stakeholders, you’re not going to have a positive working environment. You need that for success, risk-taking, and moving forward with changes. Relationships will be the foundation for all of those things.”

Ryerson also looks forward to highlighting the various curricular and extracurricular opportunities at the high school with the goal of providing something for everyone.

“It’s about meeting the interests that our students have, whether it’s athletics or the fine arts,” Ryerson explains. “Being involved with extracurricular activities helps build self-esteem and promotes collaboration with other students, both of which can lead to academic success in the classroom.”

Ryerson is especially excited about the vocational center that will soon be constructed and the real-world working experiences it will provide for GHS students.

“The building and its resources will provide even more opportunity to build relationships with businesses throughout Geneseo and Henry County,” explains Ryerson. “Eventually, I’d love to get some type of certified apprenticeship programs with our students to get on the job training. If there’s a career they want to pursue right after high school, they could have paid experience before they graduate.”

Ryerson’s overall approach is simple—he wants to assist and empower all students.

“An inclusive, supportive environment is extremely important,” Ryerson says. “Regardless of what a student is interested in, I need to be a champion for them. I need to be a visible presence who cheers them on and helps take them where they want to go.”

Originally published on February 14, 2022