HOMER, Neb. | In school districts across Siouxland, principals and superintendents new to their districts continue to settle in, still learning the names of students and staff members.
Gregg Cruickshank moved to Homer this summer as the new Homer Community Schools superintendent after spending 13 years as a school administrator in southwest Iowa. His transition is going much easier than what many new school administrators moving into a district encounter.
It helps that his new job is a homecoming of sorts.
"It really has worked out well. You do a 360 and you wind up where you were," said Cruickshank, who was Homer's junior/senior high school principal from 1997-2004 before taking a principal job in Sidney, Iowa, to be closer to his wife Lynda's family. Cruickshank added the superintendent duties after a year, then was a shared superintendent between the Sidney and South Page school districts for the past eight years.
A funny thing happened during that time. Lynda had worked at Security National Bank in Sioux City during the family's first stint in Homer. When an opportunity arose for her to return to the bank in January 2015, she took it. For more than two years, Lynda lived in Sioux City and Gregg remained in Sidney, and they saw each other on weekends.
For two years, Cruickshank searched for school administrator positions in Northwest Iowa and Northeast Nebraska so he and Lynda could again live under the same roof.
"It could have been either side of the river," he said.
Cruickshank had maintained connections in Homer since his departure 13 years ago. You can imagine his reaction when he was informed that superintendent Cheryll Malcom was retiring, leading to the need for a new district leader.
"I was excited. I had a lot of good memories here, seven very rewarding years as a principal here," he said. "I had an understanding of the community, nearly half of the staff was still here."
Applying for the job wasn't a decision Cruickshank had to spend much time pondering. Neither was the decision of whether to accept the job when it was offered to him after his interview.
"It was an easy yes," said the Columbus, Nebraska, native, who taught and coached at Nebraska schools in Leigh and Wakefield before his first turn in Homer.
That smooth transition back to a familiar setting has led to a few surreal moments for Cruickshank. School board president Paul Tighe was on the board when Cruickshank was a principal here. Two other current board members were among his students. Even more former students are now staff members at the school.
And when the school hosted an open house before classes started, Cruickshank ran into many more of his former students, who are now parents of kids at the school.
It might make it hard for Cruickshank to believe that 13 years had passed by, but the familiarity has made his new job much easier.
"It does lessen the anxiety," he said. "When you know those staff members are quality people and educators, it makes that transition easier."
Cruickshank moved back to Homer in June, and he and Lynda are enjoying once again living together full time. They never planned on coming back to Homer specifically, but both are happy with how the situation worked out.
"It feels great. I really have a liking for rural districts with a small town as a hub," Cruickshank said. "I shared with the staff at our opening staff development that there really is no other place I'd like to be than Homer."