By Barb Arland-Fye
Leland “Lee” Morrison, a lifelong Catholic with 35 years experience in public education — 27 of them in school administration — will become superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Davenport July 1. He succeeds Mary Wieser in that position. She will continue to be in charge of faith formation for the diocese.
“I have had a long and exciting career in public education. Now as that career comes to a close it is time for me to give something back,” said Morrison, who currently serves as superintendent of the Burlington Community School District. “The diocesan superintendency combines two things that are very dear to me — education and the Catholic faith. I have always tried to live and pattern my choices in life after a favorite verse: ‘Like the good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.’” — 1 Peter 4:10.
The Sigourney native said he learned about the opening for diocesan superintendent in The Catholic Messenger. “I wasn’t looking for a new job … but the diocesan superintendency doesn’t come open that often,” said Morrison, who has followed the progress of the Catholic schools through The Catholic Messenger “all my adult life.”
The selection committee of 13 members from throughout the diocese was impressed with Morrison’s academic credentials and his commitment to Catholic education. He was one of 11 applicants.
“He has a very, very good grasp that Catholic education involves both faith formation and scholastic achievement,” said Bishop Martin Amos. “He’s well qualified, and a strong Catholic.”
Morrison began his career in education teaching sixth grade in the Central Lee Community Schools System in 1975 and then served as elementary principal in Malvern, Iowa. He became a superintendent of schools at age 29, and has served in that capacity in the Iowa communities of Farnhamville, Baxter, Donnellson, and Hampton as well as Burlington. He also worked as an assistant professor/director of field experiences at Wayne State College in Nebraska.
Morrison believes he has “a clear understanding of the challenges that Catholic schools face, and a deep commitment to providing the experiences that Catholic parents want their children to have in our Catholic schools, an understanding of the Iowa Core Curriculum and 21st Century Skills, and an unwavering desire to strengthen and maintain a strong system of Catholic education in the Diocese of Davenport.”
He hopes to urge all parents to consider a Catholic education as a viable option to invest in their child’s future and will promote the hallmarks of a good Catholic education: high academic standards and a rigorous curriculum that prepares the student to be a productive citizen and compassionate leader in the 21st century, faith-based education through leadership and modeling of the Gospel values, a positive learning environment, quality instruction led by a highly qualified faculty, and self-discipline with a Christian focus.
ll focus on understanding the priorities of Bishop Amos in regards to Catholic schools, making a smooth transition in the office of superintendent of schools, getting to know the principals, parish priests and staff who serve the schools, preparing for the fall teacher in-service to set the tone for his tenure in the diocese, reviewing test scores of diocesan schools to understand strengths, and continuing the path to full implementation of the Iowa Core Curriculum. He plans to visit every classroom in the diocese next fall “to familiarize myself with the diocesan educational system. The students of the diocese are my first priority; it’s the only reason my job exists.”
Morrison’s commitment to children extends beyond the classroom. He and his wife, Sandy, also an educator, are parents of nine children (two biological and seven adopted) and a 6-year-old foster son. “We are passionate about children and believe you will be judged by how you treat the least amongst us,” he said.
LuAnn Glaser, director of special services for the Burlington Community School District, said Morrison’s departure will be a loss to the district and to her, personally.
“I really appreciate his leadership style. He expects me to do the job I’ve been hired to do. He wants me to keep him posted on issues so that he is aware and knowledgeable about what’s going on.” She and her husband, Bob Glaser, a deacon candidate for the Diocese of Davenport, also are fellow parishioners with Morrison at Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington. (Morrison also is a member of St. Mary Parish in Williamsburg.) “I know how important his faith is to him. He really sees the importance in building relationships and finding out what people need and their concerns,” LuAnn Glaser said.
“Lee’s a very personable guy and extremely up to date on the laws and curriculum, so he’ll be a big plus to the diocese,” said Ron Glasgow, principal of Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Burlington. He appreciates Morrison’s collaborative efforts in working with nonpublic schools such as Notre Dame. Through his efforts, Notre Dame students participate in an engineering class and the swimming program at Burlington Senior High School. Notre Dame also has benefited from using the Burlington district’s lunch program vendor.
Glasgow noted that Morrison is “replacing someone immensely dedicated to Catholic education. I really respect Mary Wieser; Mary has done a tremendous job.” Glasgow, who also left the public school system for the Catholic school system, hopes that “Lee will have as good an experience as I have had making that move.”
Leland “Lee” Morrison, Ph.D.
Occupation: Superintendent of Burlington Community School District
Family: Wife, Sandy, specialist for Talented and Gifted Education Great Prairie AEA in Burlington-Ottumwa and Extended Learning Opportunities instructor, Burlington Senior High School.
Children: Sons, Matthew, 31, (wife, Bridget); Andrew 30; Mark, 29, (wife, Emily); Michael, 28; Aaron, 25; and James, 21; daughters, Megan, 27 (Chris Leewright); and twins Molly and Makenzie, 17; a 6-year-old foster son; four grandchildren.
Parish: Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington, and St. Mary Parish, Williamsburg.
Parish and civic involvement: Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, and School Administrators of Iowa
Hobbies: Antique collecting, walking and reading.
Hometown: Sigourney, St. Mary’s Parish