CEDAR CITY — Lance Hatch, Iron County School District’s new superintendent as of July 1, was officially sworn in during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Hatch recently sat down with Cedar City News and discussed his vision for Iron County schools. A native of La Sal, Utah and a career educator, Hatch most recently was the superintendent of Carbon School District in Price, a position he held for four years.
In his new role at the helm of Iron County School District, Hatch succeeds Shannon Dulaney, who recently retired after eight years as superintendent.
“As a superintendent, I’ve learned probably the most important thing that I can do is listen and learn,” Hatch said. “And then, those things that need to be done manifest themselves, right?”
“I am not coming in with a list of things that I want to see done,” he added. “What I really want to do is learn about Iron School District, the successes and the challenges, and then work side-by-side with our amazing educators and solve problems.”
Hatch talked about how he would accomplish this.
“I do have approaches that I’ve found to be successful, as far as philosophy of the district’s role,” he said. “And I believe strongly in the professionalism of teachers. We expect teachers to be professional, therefore, we need to treat them as professionals, and we trust them to make good decisions. But we have an obligation as a district to be very clear about our expectations, and to provide support for them to develop the competencies that they need, and the skills and knowledge that they need to be able to be successful.”
“So that’s my role, and I want to stick to that lane,” Hatch added. “I don’t want to get too far into how they’re going to do that at the classroom level, because that’s their job. My job is to help them to have the skills and knowledge that they need, and to be very clear about what’s expected.”
Hatch said he recently surveyed district personnel via email and asked them a simple question: “What do you wish your superintendent knew?”
The number one response, he said, was that Iron County School District is the best.
“That’s what they want me to know,” he said. “They love it. They love working here. They have success with student learning. Every district can improve and should improve constantly. But this is a great place and a great district. I’m just excited to be here.”
Hatch said he expects the school environment to be markedly different than it was last year, as the district, along with others throughout the state, will no longer require masks or facial coverings to be worn in school.
“I think it’s going to be much better than last year,” he said, adding, “I am not in complete control of that. I know that the health department or the governor could do something tomorrow that would upset the apple cart, but I’ve been told, and in my meetings, it’s pretty clear that there’s really no desire from either of those entities to go back to what we were doing last year.”
“It looks like our priorities are going to be that all healthy students ought to be in school,” Hatch said. “And if they’re sick, they should probably stay home, just as it always has been.”
Hatch said it also appears that students will not be required to undergo regular COVID tests in order to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.
“Testing students so that they can play or participate is not going to be there unless we’re required to do it. But it doesn’t appear that that’s the case,” he said. “The only thing that we know for certain that we’re going to be required to do is if any of our schools has ended up with 30 positive cases at one time, then we would have to do something called ‘test to stay’. Now, even at the height of COVID last year, no schools in Iron School District came even close to having that many. In fact, they never even hit the 15 mark last year.”
“So, there’s a very small probability that we would have to do anything like that,” he said. “Other than that, we want to focus on the learning that needs to be happening and get back to the business of educating students.”
COVID-19 was on Hatch’s mind quite a bit last year.
“Quite honestly, COVID was quite a distraction. We were inventing, how to just survive from day to day, and we were being thrown a lot of things,” he said. “But you know, we’re very excited that we get to get back to the reason why we exist. And that’s to make sure our students master the knowledge and skills outlined in the Utah Core Standards.”
“First of all, we want kids in school. Second of all, we want to make sure they’re safe while they’re there,” he added. “And then, once they’re there and they’re safe, remember, our job is to teach, and we get to do our job now. And that’s pretty exciting.”
Hatch said he’s looking forward to meeting district teachers and staff at the district-wide opening institute scheduled for the morning of Aug. 13 at Cedar High School.
“I’m going to do the keynote this year,” he said, “I’ll be kind of an introduction to me and I’ll share some, some fun stuff with everybody to get things started off. It’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to that.”
Iron County School District students will return to the classrooms for the first day of school the following Tuesday, Aug. 17.
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