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Since his start as Superintendent approximately 16-years ago, Larry Flanagan has been called one of the best. His ability to not only handle difficult financial constraints without the loss of staff or programs, but lead the Elsberry R-II School District forward during financial crisis has made him a seemingly huge asset to the school and the community.
“He has been extremely instrumental in keeping the district in good financial shape,” said High School Principal and as of June 30, Superintendent for the Elsberry R-II School District Tim Reller, Ed.D. “I think he has been great to work with and great to work for. He understands what we have to do and all the complexities that go into our job and supports us in every way at the same time he has always looked at what has been the best for our students interests.”
Although Reller said he has not been around for the last 16-years, he feels as though Flanagan’s leadership skills can be seen throughout the school. During the course of his career, Flanagan has made improvements in not only the school curriculum but also with the technological necessities students require now. However, Flanagan said this is not something he can take credit for. According to him he has been lucky in the fact that great staff, students and community support surround him.
“I’m truly lucky,” Flanagan said. “Over the last 16-years I have had the privilege and honor of working with knowledgeable and supportive school board members. I have been blessed to have such a great staff and I have also been blessed to work with people I consider family.”
Some of the greatest moments Flanagan said he has had in his career is being able to hand his kids thier diploma, being able to work in the same building as his wife and seeing so many children grow up to become upstanding productive men and women.
“Your only as good as the people you have working for you. Your only as good as the board members that support you and I have been truly fortunate to have worked with some of the best,” Flanagan said. “Since day one, every board member I have worked with, from the ones that hired me to the ones sitting there now, have all had one thing in common and it’s what we are all here for, what’s best for our kids.”
Flanagan has also been said to have a witty and spontaneous sense of humor. One that Elsberry Administration Secretary Tracy Howard said she would miss immensely. According to her, it has been a wonderful experience working with Flanagan.
“He is just a great guy to work for and we have a lot of fun here in this office,” Howard said. “One great thing I would say about him, although I don’t get to involved in the school budget, is if you look around at a lot of the other schools you will see that they are going through some extremely hard financial times right now. Under Flanagan’s guidance and economic strengths we are not.”
Another thing Howard said she would like to give Flanagan credit for is how well mannered the children of Elsberry are. According to her, anytime an outside teacher comes in all of them compliment how well behaved the kids are and she believes that is owed to Flanagan’s ability to lead.
“He is just so full of knowledge it is unreal,” said Elsberry R-II School District Business Manager Anne Anthony. “Not only is he extremely laid back and lets you do your job, but he also is there anytime you need him to answer questions. I’m going to miss him so much, he truly is one of the greatest things to happen to this school.”
Anthony said she has learned all she knows from him. According to her, she came in knowing nothing about school accounting or school finance and he has taught her everything, which she says she hopes she can use to help Reller when he comes in.
“Losing him is so bitter sweet,” Anthony said. “We don’t have the turnover rate that a lot of other schools have experienced and it’s because of him and his ability to not only teach but learn.”
Matt Jones, who has been on the Elsberry School Board for approximately one-year said his experiences with Flanagan have been remarkable.
“When you look at the condition of the school system and the fact that we’re operating in the black, that says bounds about Flanagan,” Jones said. “He has been able to maintain the financial strength of the school while at the same time keeping education at the forefront.”
According to Jones, Flanagan’s ability to stay current on hot issues that could affect the educational system and his drive to keep communication between the community and school has made him a true leader and friend.
“One of the biggest things we are losing with Flanagan retiring is experience,” Jones said. “His 16-years as a superintendent and 30-years in administration he has pretty much seen it all. Experience is the hardest thing to replace. The different issues that come up day to day, he has already probably experienced once before and made it fairly easy for him to rectify or find a solution for it.”
Flanagan said for him one of the greatest things and another reason he feels blessed in his 16-years as Superintendent is that he has never had a school board member come in with “an ax to grind.”
“That’s something you see in a lot of school districts, but not here,” Flanagan said. “Have we always agreed on everything? No. We have had differences of opinion over the years but mostly its just been a really good relationship. If we agreed on everything I don’t know that we would be as good as we are. We have had some really good debates over the years.”
Flanagan said when he looks back at his 16-years the thing he feels most fortunate about, besides the kids is having a board that shared in his love for doing what’s best for the kids.
“I have had a lot of memorable moments in the last 16-years,” Flanagan said. “But it’s time for a younger fresher mind to come in and take this school district to the next level, which I honestly believe Reller can and will do. I’ll miss seeing all the kids’ everyday and the wonderful men and women I have had the pleasure of working with but I truly believe my time is done. However, I have loved every minute of it and I want to thank everybody that made it such a great ride.”