Ten minutes into the interview, Greg Wyman, new superintendent for the Payson Unified School District (PUSD) had to take a call.
The break offered a reporter the chance to study his newly stocked bookshelves, which proved a treasure trove of insights into the third man to take the reins of the district in the past year.
Wyman has already re-arranged the bookshelves on the back wall of the superintendent’s office and scattered them with Disney characters.
Wyman loves Disney. He wears a Mickey Mouse watch and readily espouses the philosophy of the highly successful amusement park venture, which also exemplifies his leadership style.
Wyman loves to tell people that the Disney management philosophy holds that if the company treats the staff well, it will result in better customer service. That remains the key to his approach.
“If staff feels respected they will respect the customer,” says Wyman.
Looking closer amongst the Disney figurines, Wyman’s impressive past pops into awareness — maybe the Disney philosophy really works.
Wyman has awards from the state, district and school level. Awards include, Coach of the Year from Canyon Del Oro and an award for being a founding member of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition. Another award thanks Wyman for supporting the McClintock High School science and math fair and Snowflake praised Wyman for building its gym.
Wyman also has an impressive array of books. He’s read “The 360 Degree Leader” by John C. Maxwell, “The World is Flat” by Thomas L. Freidman, and “It Starts with One” by Black Gregersen.
Must contribute to his positive attitude.
After finishing the call, Wyman launched into his philosophy of education.
“We always frame it (the current state of education) in a negative way,” he said. “We start with what’s wrong instead of what’s right.”
Taking on the graduates from the 1950 school era, Wyman said students of today have a broader breadth of knowledge when they graduate than those students from the past.
“Look at what kids take today versus the ’50s, the bar has already been raised,” he said, “We still teach a skill set — writing, reading and math that does translate to a job. Students have to have foundational skills.”
Take algebra as an example. It was not until the space race that algebra became a graduation requirement. Prior to that, basic math sufficed. Now some students require calculus to ready themselves for a science or engineering degree.
Wyman also said the naysayers that believe all the counselors and coordinators are unneeded staff and districts should return to teaching the three R’s, fail to take into account that society has changed.
“It’s time and distance,” he said. “In the past, there was extended family that helped out. Now public education has to take on those roles.”
Take hunger for example. Wyman said more Americans used to live on farms that ensured a supply of food.
“Now kids come to school hungry,” he said.
Despite the challenges of running a school district, Wyman has dedicated his life to the profession because he loves it.
“The beauty of the U.S. education system is we’re taking all kids,” he said, “(but) because we open our doors to all, everybody has their own beliefs. You get everybody’s beliefs and you try to facilitate all those beliefs.”
Not an easy job, but Wyman relishes finding the common ground and respecting the community’s desires for its school system.
“It’s building a foundation that we hope will stand the test of time,” said Wyman.