Six years ago, Pat Westby was the superintendent of West Central Area Schools in Minnesota when he saw an opening for the Sauk Centre Public Schools superintendent position. After he applied and was accepted, he was excited about the opportunity but also a little apprehensive. He was new to the area; his son, Isaiah, was a high school senior; and his daughter, McKenna, was going into ninth grade.

“I was nervous about how that transition was going to go, but it just went so beautifully,” Westby said. “I was coming in and replacing a legend in Dan Brooks who had been here 23 years, and Dan was just a fantastic mentor to me. The community accepted our family – and me as their superintendent – and allowed me to be a part of the community and to lead the school district forward.”

Today, both of Westby’s children have graduated from Sauk Centre High School, SCPS has a renewed technology levy and a new bond referendum for school improvements, the district is in a good financial position and the schools remain in the hands of an engaged board, helpful staff and supportive community. It is all these things, though, that made it a difficult decision for Westby to resign from his SCPS superintendent position and take a job with consulting company SitelogIQ, the organization assisting with SCPS’s renovation.

As before, Westby is eager to begin this next stage of his life, but it is also tough to go.

“This decision I and our family made has absolutely nothing to do with the school district, our community, our staff, our kids or our families,” Westby said. “It’s just an opportunity for me and my professional career that I’m excited about. We don’t necessarily get a chance to control the timing of opportunities.”

Westby’s last day as SCPS superintendent will be Friday, January 7, 2022; afterward, he will be a senior business consultant with SitelogIQ, working with school districts in Minnesota and part of South Dakota. He will be able to stay in Sauk Centre, working out of his home and traveling to schools when needed. For Westby, this is an ideal way for the career change to occur because he still wants to be engaged in the Sauk Centre community.

Through working with SitelogIQ to renovate the SCPS facilities, Westby admired the way the company got to know the school districts, molding their processes around the school’s instead of the other way around. When their senior business consultant position opened, Westby was able to get an even better look.

“I wanted to know SitelogIQ’s vision for their company is and their philosophies, and the more I learned, the more their company philosophies really aligned with mine and who I am,” Westby said. “I think we as the Sauk Centre School District got to experience what it is they do and the relationships they build, and that really aligns, so I’m excited to help other school districts in that same way.”

As Westby begins work with SitelogIQ in early January, school districts will be beginning to plan for the 2022-23 school year. While Westby acknowledges he may have a steep learning curve ahead of him, he feels ready to be part of other districts’ planning processes.

While there has been a recent statewide teacher shortage, Westby does not believe it will be too difficult to find a superintendent to replace him. From what he has heard from the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, there are a good number of people wanting to step up into school leadership positions. He also believes Sauk Centre will be an attractive option for these people, considering the district’s finances, progress, students, staff and local residents.

“The table is set for a leader to come in and take our school district to heights we’ve never seen before,” Westby said. “In my opinion, Sauk Centre schools is in a better spot now than we were five years ago. That’s not a negative thing toward anybody; I’m extremely confident the next person coming in is going to say the exact same thing in five years.”

When Westby looks back at his five years as superintendent, the challenges SCPS has faced in that time can seem overwhelming, particularly the difficulties of 2020. However, the school’s successes are even more astounding to him, and he will be leaving the district’s leadership position with nothing but positive memories. Westby summarizes his time as superintendent in two words, directed at the people of the Sauk Centre area: Thank you.

“Thank you to our staff, our students, our community and our families for allowing me to be a part of their educational journeys in some small way,” Westby said. “It’s a humbling experience, quite honestly, one I’ve never taken for granted and one I’ve always, always taken pride in and taken very seriously. We get to work with kids and people who want what’s best for their students. To me, there’s really nothing greater.”