District hires new interim superintendent

Dr. JoAnn Sternke (Maggie Dickman)

As the Shorewood School District says farewell to former superintendent Dr. Bryan Davis, the community welcomes the district’s new interim superintendent, Dr. JoAnn Sternke. Sternke has enjoyed her experience back in the Shorewood community and is excited to serve a district that invests so much into its schools.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting a wide variety of people,” Sternke said. “The overarching feeling I have is that this is a community that cares about our schools and, most importantly, our children and youth.”

Since coming to Shorewood, Sternke has found that the community has broad resources to improve the district.

“There is strong support for our schools. We work well with the village. We have SEED, which supports our school. They reward our teachers with excellence grants.”

Sternke’s biggest motivator for coming to Shorewood schools was the amount of effort she saw put into Integrated Comprehensive Systems (ICS) work. ICS is a framework designed to improve equity in Shorewood district educational systems.

“I think that the commitment that Shorewood has to equity is impressive. I see many organizations committed to equity, but not trying to do system building work to create more equitable results for students. That’s really what this is all about.”

Sternke heard about the job opening for interim superintendent from former superintendent Jack Linehan, who was helping the school board look for candidates.

“He wrote to me and said, ‘Shorewood calls.’ Dr. Linehan knew that I had worked here before. I was a teacher here and I think he felt, as I did, that sense of knowing Shorewood and feeling like it was home and that it would be something that would appeal to me.”

As the interim superintendent, Sternke has multiple district-wide responsibilities.

“In essence, I’m the chief executive officer of the school district, which means that I am responsible for everyone’s safety, and I’m ultimately responsible for the learning that goes on… I also serve the board of education and make sure that I am providing them with the information they need to make great decisions in service of our schools.”

I think that the commitment that Shorewood has to equity is impressive,

— Dr. JoAnn Sternke, interim superintendent

Though Sternke doesn’t plan to implement any major changes, she hopes to guide Shorewood schools forward as a reliable leader.

“I think the role of an interim superintendent is to steady the ship and advance the work that’s already in existence, but I do think that we have to set in some protocols. When we finish any event, we need to analyze it and improve it for next year.”

Sternke believes that working in Shorewood as an English teacher in the past prepared her for the duties she now holds as interim superintendent.

“When I taught, I learned how to work hard to be an excellent teacher… I learned a lot about excellence, but I think that my big job now is really taking that passion around the mission and… building a coalition of people that are just as passionate about that.”

While teaching at Shorewood provided valuable experience, Sternke also believes that her past experience in other districts has taught her important skills necessary for her new position.

“I’ve been a superintendent for over 17 years. I understand the role of a superintendent and how they need to build relationships and execute strategy. I’ve got good experience from the Pewaukee schools, from the Cedarburg School District, teaching aspiring superintendents at Cardinal Stritch University for many years, and most recently, in working with leaders all across our country who are looking to get better at getting better.”

After a year of disrupted learning, Sternke’s role as interim superintendent includes helping students and families feel comfortable in an in-person environment.

I’ve been a superintendent for over 17 years. I understand the role of a superintendent and how they need to build relationships and execute strategy,

— Dr. JoAnn Sternke, interim superintendent

“I want families to feel confident in students’ safety, in their learning, and I want us to have that sense of connectedness and togetherness that we’ve been missing.”

Sternke is excited to meet as many teachers and students as possible throughout the school year.

“I’ve made a goal that I want to meet every teacher and staff member before the start of this school year, and I will set a similar goal that… I want to at least be in every classroom for a bit of time.”

In addition to just meeting Shorewood students and faculty, Sternke is most looking forward to actually seeing students back in classrooms, engaging and learning after a challenging year. 

“That’s why we do this job. We love what occurs between teachers and students each and every day, where students get engaged in learning… that’s incredibly exciting for me to think about, how we’re opening doors for kids to think about their futures in a different embrace.”