The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Powell hired as Ironwood superintendent


May 24, 2018

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Ironwood - The search for a superintendent is over, after the Ironwood Area Schools Board of Education approved a contract with Travis Powell Wednesday.

"It's kind of surreal in a way, because I wasn't really looking for this type of advancement this early. I feel I'm pretty lucky to be superintendent at only 43," Powell told the Daily Globe shortly after signing the contract Wednesday evening. He said while he got excited during the interview process thinking about the possibility to create positive change in the district, he didn't want to get his hopes too high.

"Now that it's real, that's the part that is kind of surreal. It's like, 'Holy cow, this actually happened,'" Powell said.

Members of the Ironwood board seemed excited at the decision too.

"I believe we have an excellent person to take the helm of the Ironwood school system," Board President Steve Thomas told the Daily Globe after the meeting, adding Powell came well-recommended to the district.

While his contract doesn't officially start until July 1, Powell said he arranged to be in the district earlier than that to begin meeting stakeholders and getting up to speed. This will also give him some time on the job before Ironwood Superintendent Tim Kolesar officially retires. Kolesar announced in December he was retiring at the end of the school year after leading the district since 2010.

The three-year contract will pay Powell an annual salary of $90,000 plus benefits, according to Thomas. He described the rest of the contract as fairly standard, saying the district used a template provided by the Michigan Association of School Boards and filled in the details.

Powell, an Ironwood Township resident, is the principal of Lake Superior Elementary School in Ashland, Wis.

While he moved to the Twin Ports for a while, Powell has long ties to the Gogebic Range.

"I lived right on Aurora Street (in Ironwood)," Powell said. "Actually back when there was Videoland, I lived upstairs there for a while. I went to Gogebic in 1994-95."

He went to University of Wisconsin-Superior after graduating from GCC, staying in the Duluth area to work at the Woodland Hills juvenile corrections facility - a treatment center for children who were placed in the facility as an alternative to jail.

While at the facility, Powell said he realized many of the young people he worked with had special education needs and he decided to return to school to get a masters in special education.

"That allowed me to go upstream, instead of waiting until the children were in residential treatment," he said

He taught elementary special education in several districts, including Ashland, prior to becoming principal. As principal, Powell said he was in a position to have a positive impact on more than just a single classroom - a trajectory he hopes to continue in Ironwood.

"If I was able to have this kind of a positive impact on a school of 400 children approximately - what if I was in charge of an entire district," Powell asked. "What if I could set that standard for all the administration, all the teachers, all the staff members of a school? What kind of positive impact could I have there? Well, I'm about to find out."


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