New Collins-Maxwell principal enjoying small school atmosphere

Brett Van Waus

Chad Grandon, 29, is ‘getting into the groove’ of his new job as elementary principal at Collins-Maxwell.

Collins-Maxwell students started classes on Aug. 18, and so far the Applington native has enjoyed getting back to a smaller school after one year as a elementary principal in Cedar Falls.

“I really like this area and the small town and family-like atmosphere here,” said Grandon. “Now, going to football games, I’m developing a relationship rather than just small talk with parents and community members. “I really enjoy that. I know what’s going on with my teachers, and I know what their kids are doing and I feel that’s a huge piece of developing relationships with them.”

Grandon’s family has enjoyed the area thus far as well. Grandon’s wife, Kristin, runs an in-home day care in Bondurant, where she can watch over the couple’s daughters Mia (3) and Ellie (11 months).

“Right now my biggest challenge is finding a balance between life and work and making sure it’s a good fit; it’s something every administrator has to figure out,” says Grandon. “Luckily I have a fabulous family that is very understanding of the hours I put in.”

While Grandon says working with over 1,100 students in Cedar Falls was great experience for a first-year administrator, he is looking forward to building meaningful relationships with everyone in the Collins-Maxwell community. The district educates around 200 students in the elementary building every year.

“My job is to ensure that learning is high quality and our district initiatives are being met,” said Grandon. “My philosophy is that all students are here to feel loved, feel safe and to learn. My job is also to build those relationships with staff members, students, parents, community members - to make sure that when they come in those doors, that students are safe and loved and then we can learn. If [the students] are feeling those things, we can accomplish those goals that we set out.”

New approaches to learning at the school also attracted Grandon to the principal’s office in Collins. The elementary is in its second year of Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST), a three- to five-minute computerized test, giving teachers and administrators alike more data to find out where their students may need a different approach. Many other area schools have since adopted the approach for their students.

“Our teachers now know what to do with that data and we have intervention procedures,” said Grandon. “We have the student’s data right there and we can look at it immediately, and that gives us a better understanding of where that kid is at and I think in the second year we’re at an advantage at Collins-Maxwell.”

While Grandon spent much of last school year dealing with the behavior of his pupils in Cedar Falls, the former elementary teacher was excited to leave his office more frequently and visit various classrooms. Before becoming an administrator, the University of Dubuque graduate taught fourth grade at Parkersburg and second grade at Cedar Rapids Prairie.

“Being an elementary teacher has definitely helped me as an administrator,” said Grandon. “The teachers see that as beneficial that the person coming in to lead them has that background. The teachers have also welcomed a young guy that’s recent in the classroom; it’s allowed different ideas and teachers have appreciated and welcomed that. They’ve been great.”

No matter where he is teaching, Grandon is in the education field because he has a passion for helping young people learn.

“Anyone in education enjoys just seeing the kids walking down the hallway,” said Grandon. “I got into this business because I love to watch people learn and watch people grow. My philosophy is if I ever don’t have that passion anymore, I’ll look for something else.”