New G-R superintendent holds meet and greet in Gladbrook

PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent Caleb Bonjour, right, smiles alongside Gladbrook resident Amy Geels, left, and her son Benton during a welcome reception held in his honor at the Gladbrook Memorial Building on July 13. Benton, a first grader, attends the district’s elementary school located in Reinbeck.

GLADBROOK — Earlier this month on July 13, newly appointed G-R Superintendent Caleb Bonjour was officially introduced to the southern half of his consolidated school district during a ‘meet and greet’ held on his behalf at the Gladbrook Memorial Building.

Bonjour — pronounced “BON-jur” — was appointed as full time superintendent by the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District late last spring, replacing outgoing superintendent Erik Smith whom the district had been sharing with neighboring AGWSR.

“[My first two weeks have been filled with] preparing for this upcoming year. Getting what our initiatives are [professional development]-wise – things like that – in place. … getting to know the community, [administration] team, teachers, and everything,” Bonjour, dressed in one of his signature Hawaiian shirts, told the T-R during the open house. As he spoke, school board members, building principals, and a few members of the public chatted near a table of refreshments set up in a mostly empty room.

Since assuming the role of G-R superintendent on July 1, Bonjour said he has worked to get to know people from across the district better by sending out a “questionnaire and networking audit.”

“[The questionnaire] lets them tell me who they turn and talk to when they need advice and things like that,” Bonjour explained. “And then I take all that and put it together so I know who my hubs of people are but I also get to know each person individually – and then I encourage them to also schedule one-on-one meetings with me.”

The hour long reception on July 13 took place prior to the regular monthly meeting of the G-R Board of Education – a meeting that has by and large been held either in Reinbeck or via Zoom since the district ceased using the now-demolished Gladbrook school buildings following the completion of the 2014-15 school year.

Bonjour – who spent the last two years working as superintendent of the Midland Community School District, where he oversaw the successful passing of a bond referendum to renovate the elementary building – told the T-R he plans to spend a significant amount of time in the Gladbrook community this year.

“I think that’s one of my biggest goals … trying to reach out and do as much with Gladbrook as we can – or in Gladbrook as we can,” Bonjour said. “We want to look at – hopefully this fall – trying to find some different ways we can get down here for some tailgaters, things like that, with staff or community at large.”

He said the school board also plans to conduct at least one meeting per quarter in Gladbrook going forward.

Strengthening the district’s recent partnership with Crayon Corner Learning Center in order to offer a public preschool to Gladbrook’s three and four-year-old population is also something Bonjour highlighted as being part of his work this school year.

“I think having our preschool down here is going to be phenomenal. It’s gonna be a really big thing to continue to offer to the community,” he said.

A partnership the district recently inked with the YMCA to offer wrap-around care to students in grades TK-6 at the elementary school in Reinbeck was also something Bonjour touched upon as being beneficial to the Gladbrook community.

“We’re working on transportation right now for our before and after school program,” Bonjour said. “So if they have students that are going to the elementary school [in Reinbeck] and want to participate in that afterschool program, when we run that activity bus at night to bring the Gladbrook kids back down, they would just swing by the elementary, pick those kids up and bring them down, too, on the regular, afterschool route.”

“We want to make sure we’re trying to maximize that and do everything we can.”

While the meet and greet was held during the week of the Tama County Fair, which may have contributed to the fairly small number of Gladbrook residents present at the reception, it was also held during a time of mourning for the G-R community at large due to the recent passing of Connor Allen, a Class of 2023 graduate who lost his life on July 10 in a work related accident that took place in a farm pasture south of Parkersburg.

“Unfortunately I’ve had that experience. My first year as [superintendent] at Midland, two weeks before I became super – officially started – we had a junior who passed away, too. His mother was one of the custodians and associates in the building,” Bonjour said.

Bonjour said while at Midland he also had an elementary student pass away.

“We had a fifth grader that passed in a house fire, as well. So, unfortunately, I’ve had some experience in dealing with that,” Bonjour continued. “It doesn’t sound like we’ve had that experience here in quite some time which, I was at least happy that I was able to help out in any way, shape, or form – to bring a little bit of calmness, keep the communication flowing… It can be very overwhelming, having gone through it.”

When asked how staffing for the upcoming school year was looking, Bonjour said the district only needed to fill two full time positions – an English teacher at the secondary level and a district nurse.

“I’m sure we’ll have a few more associate positions as we get closer and see where rosters are once registration takes place,” Bonjour added.

For those who missed meeting or catching up with Superintendent Bonjour, his website (https://calebbonjour.wixsite.com/mrbonjour) provides a plethora of information about him and his family, as well as his work and goals.

For those who would like to set up a time to meet with Bonjour one-on-one, a 30 minute meeting can be scheduled here: https://calendly.com/caleb-bonjour.


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