Eustice leaves BEA for Nicollet top post
It came as a surprise to many in the community to learn Blue Earth Area High School principal Jack Eustice had resigned at last Monday’s BEA School Board meeting.
And, that he was taking a position as superintendent in the Nicollet School District.
Last year, Eustice, elementary principal Kevin Grant and superintendent Dale Brandsoy had all ‘retired’ from their positions, but had been rehired by the board on one year contracts.
“It was a way for the three of us to begin our retirement and for the district to save some costs,” Eustice says. “But, I never intended to completely retire.”
He received his superintendent’s licensure in January and began to explore his options. He applied at Nicollet, was interviewed and hired.
“It is invigorating to think of things in a different perspective,” Eustice says. “I will be the go-to person with the school board. I think I have some leadership abilities that will fit in well at Nicollet.”
Eustice and his wife, Mona, who is retiring from teaching first grade at BEA, plan to continue living in the Blue Earth area.
“I signed a flexible contract at Nicollet,” Eustice says. “Some weeks I will be working there five days, some weeks only two or three days.”
Eustice came to Blue Earth Area in 1978.
“After college my goal was to be a wrestling coach and social studies teacher,” he says. “Blue Earth’s wrestling tradition caught my eye; I applied and was hired.”
He says then-superintendent Ken Queensland and athletic director Dick Maher were the two who hired him.
“They were both as good a pair of mentors as I could ask for,” Eustice says. “Ken was the consummate education professional with integrity and leadership skills. Dick was a hands-on AD who connected well with the kids. He sounded gruff but was soft inside.”
Eustice says he was going to stay five years to see if he liked it. He must have decided it was OK, since he stayed for 34 years.
Except, he did leave for one year.
In 2000 Eustice received his principalship license and was hired at Janesville.
“That was my hometown, where I had graduated,” he says. “It was a little strange to be in charge of the teachers I had when I was a student there. I had to prove to them I could be a better principal than I had been as a smart-aleck kid in their classes.”
That was not the only strange detail of his year in Janesville.
“I was the principal there, but I continued as the wrestling coach at Blue Earth Area,” he recalls. “BEA wrestled Janesville, and that was a very strange feeling. I knew everyone on both teams.”
Then, in 2001, BEA high school prinicpal John Huisman retired and Eustice was hired to replace him.
“So, I was back here as principal with staff I had taught with,” Eustice says. “Luckily, 99 percent of my former co-teachers were accepting of that and willing to work with me.”
Eustice says that phrase exactly describes his leadership style.
“I like to say that I work ‘with’ people, from staff to students,” he says. “And that is what the School Board should look for in a new principal. If they ask how the candidate would handle the staff and the students, the reply should be, “I wouldn’t ‘handle’ them, I would work ‘with’ them.”
Eustice says that philosophy works as his discipline technique as well.
“I try and work out a solution with the student and the parents,” he says. “Once in a while you do need to bring out the hammer, but it shouldn’t be the first thing you reach for.”
Eustice has a lot of praise for the people he has worked with over the years.
“I am certainly not leaving BEA because of the staff or the students,” he says. “The people here are great to work with. I have been extremely lucky to have worked here all these years.”
He named the secretaries as being professional and hard working.
“And you can’t beat the job Rob Norman (activities director) and Craig Van Kley and Gary Armon (counselors) do here,” Eustice says. “But that is true of all the staff. They all have an amazing impact on this school.”
Eustice says that also goes for people like transportation director Dan Brod and maintenance supervisor Al Gieser.
“They are both experts at what they do and super organized,” he says. “They all have made my job easier.”
His praise extended to the teachers and all of the coaches he has worked with over the years.
Eustice remembers the joining of area districts and the building of the new high school as two of the biggest events at BEA while he was here.
“The School Board did it right,” he says. “Adding things like our Performing Arts Center and naming the commons area Unity Hall were the right things to do. It was a challenge to merge the communities, but it worked out for the good of the students.”
That, says Eustice is still the number one thing.
“The Blue Earth Area community cares about providing the best quality education for the kids,
he says. “So does the staff. That has been our number one thing at all times, in everything we do.”