Glenwood's New Principal Coming From Urbandale

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Richard Hutchinson, Sr. has accepted the principal job at Glenwood Community High School. Hutchinson, 55, was one of seven candidates interviewed for the position that became open when current GCHS Principal Shane Stephens announced in March he was stepping down due to health issues. Hutchinson was offered and accepted the position last week. 

“He’s very tenured, a people person and very knowledgeable about high school issues,” Glenwood Superintendent Devin Embray said. “He’s someone who is going to be an instructional leader building relationships and having accountability for processes.”
Pending final approval by the Glenwood School Board, Hutchinson will assume his duties July 1. Hutchinson’s salary will be $95,000.

Hutchinson, a Des Moines native, brings with him more than 30 years experience as an educator and administrator in Iowa. After earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in special education from Sioux Falls College in Sioux Falls, S.D., he taught at Des Moines North before earning his state certification in administration. After six years as assistant principal and then principal at Saydel High School, Hutchinson moved on to Urbandale where he spent 11 years as principal before resigning abruptly in July.

Hutchinson parted ways with Urbandale after signing an “Early Retirement and Separation Agreement” on July 8, 2013. Under terms of the agreement, Hutchinson received nearly $80,000 in compensation over an eight-month period and family health insurance benefits through June 30, 2014, one day before he begins his new position in Glenwood. The Urbandale district also paid out $39,715 in legal fees to a law firm for its assistance in drafting the agreement.

Additional terms of the settlement included that neither Hutchinson or the district would make any legal claims against each other, including claims of wrongful discharge or breach of contract.

In a telephone interview Friday, Urbandale School Board president Adam Obrecht said he could not discuss the circumstances surrounding Hutchinson’s departure, but said the principal was well-liked by his students.

“The students got along with him great,” Obrecht said. “He did a good job for the time he was here.

“It was probably just a time for change.”

Obrecht declined to say if Hutchinson was asked to submit his resignation prior to the settlement agreement being written.

“That’s a conclusion that can be made by the public when you have a settlement agreement,” he said.

Embray said he was aware of the separation agreement before offering the job to Hutchinson.

“We checked it out and it basically dealt with his family health issues that he had going on at the time,” Embray said. “I have no idea what happened in that settlement agreement. One would speculate that something else was going on there, but I don’t know.

“If it’s a professional disagreement and you want to part company and you’re in a multi-year contract, you want to move on and they (the school district administration) want to move on, then that’s typically how it works – with a settlement.”

Hutchinson cited health reasons as one of the primary factors in his decision to leave Urbandale. Hutchinson, who is diabetic, said he was diagnosed with severe psoriasis last summer. Compounding those health issues, Hutchinson had two deaths in his family.

A year away from school has helped energize the principal.

“We were able to get right spiritually,” he said. “We kind of lost track of that, so we needed to get back together spiritually. It was a time we needed to step back to take some steps forward and we did that. That desire to work with kids was just so strong.”
Hutchinson says he’s antsy to get back into education and the Glenwood job opening was attractive.

“Through the course of the year I just felt this emptiness,” Hutchinson said. “I wasn’t done working with kids. It was something I had success with and I wanted to get back into it. When I saw Glenwood’s opening, I talked to some people who had some ties to Glenwood, and they spoke so highly of the area. It’s just my wife and me now and we’re prepared to move, so everything just kind of came through for us.”

Prior to his interview last Monday, Hutchinson had never visited Glenwood, but he does have a connection to the school. While at Urbandale, Hutchinson hired Mike Moreno, a former Glenwood state champion, as the school’s wrestling coach.

“I knew of Glenwood and kind of knew some of the history, the real rich history,” he said. “It’s something I want to be a part of. It’s a beautiful building that’s well taken care of that the students take a lot of pride in. Facilities help. There’s no doubt about that. It adds something to the educational environment. It was something just walking through the building.”

Associate Editor Joel Stevens and Editor Joe Foreman contributed to this story.