Person to Person with Superintendent Brad Buck

Superintendent Dr. Brad Buck

As a biology major at UNI, Brad Buck could not have known that he would one day lead a school district of more than 16,000 students. After getting a master’s degree, and a phd from Iowa State, Dr. Buck is closing in on three years as the head of Iowa's second largest district. In our Person to Person report, we asked what it's like to be in charge of Cedar Rapids' schools, in a precarious climate where funding is short, fear is heightened, and students are becoming more vocal than ever.

It's not uncommon to find Dr. Brad Buck out of the office and back in a school, whether it's learning the job of a janitor, or spending the day with third graders, playing kickball at recess. The father of *six students himself, from 12 to 21 years old, remembers well his years growing up in the same district he now leads. Among his memories is his first day at a new school, and the teacher who was ready for him. “Mrs. King said, 'Brad welcome. I want you to know that I have somebody to sit by you at lunch', and I have to say, coming in, a new kid, knowing I had someone to sit by at lunch was a huge relief!", Buck said. That seatmate in Mrs. King's class was a boy named Jeff Roberts. Buck said, “Little did Mrs. King know that when she sat us down for the first time, as lunch buddies, she would forge one of the best relationships over a lifetime." Buck and Roberts became fast, and lasting friends, even standing up in each other's weddings.

Today, Dr. Buck looks out for other young people who may need a hand. He says, “I often times tried to find that student who didn't quite fit in, and try to engage them in positive ways, to make their school day an experience a little better than it otherwise might be."

Sadly, Buck's job now includes overseeing active shooter drills, in the unlikely but possible event a tragedy such as the Parkland School shooting would happen here. He says, “It's almost overwhelming from the perspective that it's so horrific. I think unfortunately in the world in which we live, it's troubling to me that we have to have that mindset and talk about that with students, and adults. Also, as a dad with students in our district, I'm glad that we're doing it."

The cedar rapids district has an emergency plan that includes instructions to "run", "hide", then "fight", if the first two fail. Buck says he believes in the plan, but is looking ahead to creating a safety and security task force by the end of April. "I have kids at Taft and Kennedy, and I feel confident that the people at Taft and Kennedy are doing all they can to help my kids be safe. But I think we'd be remiss not to intermittently get some fresh eyes on this conversation."

Dr. Buck says he's proud of today's students, who are advocating for themselves, speaking out locally and across the country. He says there's a willingness in this generation to get involved and show a civic responsibility.

"I would say they are in a completely different spot in which they think about things, and I am incredibly optimistic about this generation and what they're going to do", says Buck. Dr. Buck also praises the teachers in the district and says most all of them are like Mrs. King, when he was little, taking time to notice each student and give them extra attention when they need it.

He says, “Mrs. King probably didn't know she made that connection. She probably had no idea that the little bit of extra energy that she put into making sure that I felt safe and comfortable coming into her classroom, made the difference, even today, in my lifetime."

Dr. Buck says the new safety and security task force will include teachers, students, FBI, and local law enforcement.

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