The walls of Jim Busey's office are bare.
He just moved in, so there's been little time to decorate beyond setting out a few family photos.
But his office does have plenty of paper -- the desk and table are stacked with agendas, documents and notes.
That's because Busey, 56, is hitting the ground running. He just started his job as Richland School District's new superintendent, and he already has plenty of ideas for the coming school year.
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He also has a top goal for the district that he says already is in good shape: "I hope everything we do throughout the system will be improved."
Busey was picked as the new superintendent in February after a search and interview process that started last year.
He replaces Jean Lane, a longtimedistrict administrator who retired as superintendent in June.
Rick Jansons, school board president, said Busey's business know-how -- he worked in business before becoming an educator -- will be an asset as the district navigates what are expected to be a tough few years financially for public schools.
He also is a strong leader, able to build consensus and relationships, Jansons said.
"I think we have a top-notch educational leader," Jansons said.
Busey got his start teaching math and P.E. in the Zillah School District and later became superintendent, holding the post for nine years. He then moved to Lake Chelan, where he served as superintendent for a decade.
Busey grew up in Naches. Even though his mother was a teacher, he didn't consider going into education himself, he said. He earned a business degree and followed his dad -- an orchardist -- into the business world.
But before long, he re-evaluated his job path, deciding that "I wanted to have a career where I was always learning," he said.
So he went back to school to become a teacher. He now holds a doctorate in education.
Busey said he plans to spend the summer listening and learning about district programs, setting priorities and doing planning. The 2010-11 budget is in place, but officials already are thinking about the year after that, he said.
State funding for K-12 education and other programs has been reduced as lawmakers struggle to fill gaps in the state budget. Federal stimulus money has been used to back-fill some of the reductions, but it will be running out.
Money isn't the only issue on the forefront of education. Busey said finding ways to make instruction better is at the top of his priority list.
"My focus has always been, how do we improve student learning?" he said.
He also said longer-term planning for district facilities, technology and levies also will be important this year.
Busey and Jansons said they're committed to good communication between the superintendent and school board -- an issue that some speculated may have factored into Lane's decision to retire.
Busey and the board already have held a retreat, and a significant amount of time was spent discussing communication expectations, Jansons said.
"We work very well together," he said.
Busey also is looking to connect with other community leaders, such as police and city officials. He plans to be visible in the community, he said.
"I believe the superintendent is a key leader -- not just in the schools" but in the whole community, he said.
He and his wife, Rebecca, are settled in town. They have one son, Josh, an attorney in Yakima, and two grandkids. It's nice to be closer to them, Busey said.
He said he looks forward to a busy summer and school year in Richland and will work hard for the district.
"I want us to be No. 1 in everything we do," he said. "We're going to strive to be the best we can be."
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org