Superintendent George Mavroulis Reflects on 27 Years in District

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By: 
Cameron Bren

After completing grad school at UW Madison in 1991 while working as a teacher McFarlane George Mavroulis says there was only one job listing that he cared to apply to.

“One came across for Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, even then the reputation of this district was off the charts,” Mavroulis says. “I figured I’d just send a resume to that one and then three interviews later I ended up getting hired.”

Mavroulis was hired as the principal of Elm Lawn Elementary in the summer of 1992 and worked there for 10 years which he considers the highlight of his life and his career. 

“It was fabulous, it was from 1992 to 2002,” he says. “That’s where my relationships began with students and family and staff.”

In 2002 the assistant superintendent at the time was leaving mid-year and the superintendent asked Mavroulis to take the position. Mavroulis says he would consider it on the condition that he could do both for a time and decide which one he wanted.

For the second semester he spent half the day at one job and the next half at the other.

“I had to let him know by spring break and at that time I said it is a unique opportunity to do this in my home district and not have to leave so that’s when I said I’ll do the assistant superintendent,” Mavroulis recalls. 

He took the job which he worked up till 2016. He says over that time he worked on getting district-wide systems in place and creating more cohesion in a time when schools were more site-based and teaching more varied curriculum. 

Former superintendent Don Johnson retired at the end of the 2015-16 school year. With a referendum for facility expansion looming and Mavroulis’ experience and involvement the school board at the time opted to offer the position to him.

“Rather than going out and hiring somebody who is not from the community, them having to jump right into a facilities planning process, and then a referendum the next year, I think the board realized the continuity was going to be valuable,” Mavroulis explains.

When he took the job Mavroulis had already planned to retire in three years and had no intention to change that. He accepted the job making that clear and says it allowed the district plenty of time to undergo a thorough hiring process. He says he took the job not because he had the personal ambition to be superintendent, but rather he felt he needed to.

“I felt a sense of duty, why not me at this point, with the referendum coming up, because of my long history here and my connections and relationships I felt like I could deliver this,” he says.

Mavroulis adds it is not common to work in one organization for nearly an entire career but says it worked out well for him.

“I sent one resume, had one set of interviews and I’ve been here 27 years,” he says. “That process back in 1992 really set me up for next 27 years. I was so fortunate, so lucky, that just doesn’t happen.”

But Mavroulis says he is a throwback as an employee willing to stay for the long haul.  

“I believe in loyalty and staying and committing and it has really worked for me,” he says.

Reflecting on the state of teaching over his career Mavroulis says the accountability movement has taken its toll with more testing and requirements for students than ever.

“Teaching is both an art and a science and, unfortunately, I think the art is getting shoved to the side for the science,” he opines. “We have to track and make sure all kids are learning and progressing, but we are required to do a lot more testing, a lot more assessments, the kids get fatigued, the teachers get fatigued.”

Mavroulis says because all the assessments are the same it has required teachers to be more in-sync and aligned.

“Teaching is all about relationships, it starts and ends with relationships first and foremost. We need to make sure that every teacher is connected to their students, students are connected to students,” he says. “We have to start there then we can get to the accountability stuff.”

Mavroulis is also grateful for the community members who have saved on the board of directors over the years.

“People have come and gone but they are always in it for the right reasons, we have not had boards or board members who are in it for their own benefit, or an axe to grind, or are single issue people,” he says. “Every time they are in it for the kids and that’s what it’s all about.”

Mavroulis adds that he and the board are a reflection of the community in that way.

Though Mavroulis takes no personal credit graduation rates have improved over the span of his career. The average graduation rate in the district is currently at 95 percent, but Mavroulis says that needs to be 100 percent.

“How do we meet everyone’s needs and how do we make sure our instruction is differentiated enough where we have more choice and student voice so that every student can succeed and sees themselves as successful learners,” Mavroulis says. “We want 100 percent of our kids to come to school every day, we want 100 percent of our kids to say I have adults who care about me and will be there for me, we want 100 percent of kids to say I can do this. We’re not there yet, we are not at 100 percent.”

Mavroulis says the district has been a leader in equity work and will continue to be going forward. He says the work already underway has laid the groundwork positioning the district to be successful. 

He is moving with his wife and their closest friends in life to Wilmington, NC immediately following his retirement, while his children are graduating from universities. 

They researched all sorts of places to retire and settled on Wilmington. They’ve spent the last five years visiting and making friends and getting involved in the community as well as bought a house.

“I’ve been the fortunate, blessed one to have landed here, to have been accepted here, raise my family, this is home,” Mavroulis concludes. “I will miss it greatly, but at the same time it has allowed me to plan the next phase of my life.”

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