Dr. Wilkerson to Retire


After more than 22 years at the Waukee Community School District, superintendent Dr. Dave Wilkerson made the announcement of his retirement on March 21st, 2016. 

They all came back and said I should go into accounting.”

— Wilkerson

Like most students, Wilkerson started college with one major and ended it in a different field. “[When I was in high school], I took all those interest surveys that tell you what you’re supposed to do in life. They all came back and said I should go into accounting,” Wilkerson shared, explaining that he spent his freshman and sophomore year of college as an accounting major at UNI. At the end of his sophomore year, he realized that accounting was not his calling and changed his major to education. Wilkerson’s time in education started before Waukee, though, as his first education job was a Government and Econ teacher in the Adel district.

Wilkerson was contacted by one of his professors, saying that there was an opening at Waukee for a Curriculum Director. He turned down the offer. But the professor was insistent that Wilkerson at least do the professional courtesy of meeting with the, at the time, superintendent Veronica Stalker. “I met with her, and, after about half an hour, I knew I would be coming over here,” Wilkerson commented. He started in July of 1994 as the Curriculum Director, and, after one year, was offered the Director of Professional Services position. The push for superintendent, Wilkerson shared, came from two people: Stalker and his professor, Dr. Richard Minat. “If it hadn’t been for the two of them saying this is really something I should look into,” Wilkerson confessed. “I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have thought that I had the skill set, honestly.”

I met with her, and, after about half an hour, I knew I would be coming over here.”

— Wilkerson

Throughout his time at Waukee, Wilkerson has been a part of many accomplishments for the district, such as the APEX program, the building and design of both high schools, and the implementation of the Innovation and Learning center. “Those type of things happen if you have an inquisitive mind, keep yourself open and willing to take on risks, and not be afraid to fail at things,” explained Wilkerson. “Hopefully that’s something that permeates our district and our teaching staff… because that’s where you really learn.” Wilkerson couldn’t pick something to mark his greatest accomplishment at Waukee, but jokingly stated, “Maybe my greatest accomplishment will be resigning.”

Wilkerson cherishes the moments where he gets to interact with students the most. He shared that he will remember “being in the buildings and seeing students learn and succeed and smile” over everything else, as it’s the reason he went into education in the first place. Wilkerson smiled proudly while speaking of the Waukee student body, stating, “Our students do really well when they leave here, and that’s everybody’s goal.” In the past, Wilkerson had been able to visit every classroom in the district several times a year, bringing him closer to both the students and staff, but that task, recently, has become a challenge with the growing population. With about 700 classrooms in the district, Wilkerson shared, “I miss that level of engagement. There isn’t an opportunity to do that anymore.”

In contrast to that, Wilkerson laughed while sharing that he won’t miss getting up at four o’clock in the morning in the winter to call a snow day cancellation. “I’d always get a kick out of when they would tweet stuff at me because I’d read it, but it wouldn’t have any impact on my decision.”

I’d always get a kick out of when they would tweet stuff at me.”

— Wilkerson

With more than 22 years at Waukee, Wilkerson has plenty of experiences under his belt to carry with him for the rest of his life. He compares the years to a 100 meter dash, explaining, “The thing about a 100 meter dash is that you run 100 meters and then you’re supposed to stop and catch your breath and recover for a little bit. And, here, you just never really get to slow down because of the pace of the change all around us.” The time, he shared, has helped him grow more patient and less impulsive, a quality that has contributed to his career in the best way. “I’ve gotten older. I’ve gotten a little greyer… It just has gone really, really fast.” He reassured that this was a good thing, as it meant that he has enjoyed his time.

As someone who has always been forced to look a ways down the road, Wilkerson said that the future has been an impact in his decision to retire. “I enjoy what I’m doing here, but I feel like I want to do something different one more time in my life,” he said, explaining his rationale. “I’m afraid that, after a certain time at a job like this, you can get a little jaded with things, and I don’t want to be that person.” Wilkerson also shared that he has been presented with several opportunities that he will be exploring more in the coming months. “They all involve education, but I’m not going to be a superintendent somewhere else. I told people, if I wanted to be superintendent, why would I leave here? I think it’s the best superintendent job in the state.”

I want to do something different one more time in my life.”

— Wilkerson

During his last nine months, Wilkerson is looking forward to seeing Grant Reagan open up and overseeing the designs of the new high school. “For me, getting those things in place and getting the district prepped for the next few years down the road, so that the person that comes after me doesn’t feel overwhelmed.”

In conclusion, Wilkerson shared with a reminiscent smile, expressing that he takes pride in the Waukee district. “When you look back over the course of a career, we’ve just hired really great people here… [I also take pride in] the accomplishments of our students, obviously.” His career at Waukee leaves him feeling privileged and blessed. “I stumbled into this position, but I like to give myself the credit that I was at least smart enough to recognize there was an opportunity here.” He considers himself to be a lucky guy, but Waukee considers itself to be lucky for having him.