CHIPPEWA FALLS — Jeff Holmes is eager to begin his duties as Chippewa Falls school superintendent on Wednesday.
Holmes, 56, brings 12 years of experience as a superintendent, serving five years in Montello and then the past seven years in Germantown. While Holmes is nearing his eligibility for retirement, he said, “I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
“I was quite fortunate to see this position come open. You’ve got some great things going on,” he said.
The Chippewa Falls school board announced Thursday it had selected Holmes to be the next superintendent. He will replace Heidi Taylor-Eliopoulos, who announced in April she was leaving after five years as administrator to become the leader of the Altoona school district.
Holmes said the Chippewa Falls district is poised well for the future.
“It’s the work that’s been done since 2014,” Holmes said Friday afternoon. “A lot of strategic work has been done. It aligns with what I’ve done as an administrator. What struck me is how cohesive the team is there, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Holmes grew up in a small town in northern Louisiana — he had just 12 students in his graduating class. He went to Louisiana Tech, where he earned his undergraduate degree and master’s in history. He also played football at college; he had hopes of being drafted into the NFL, but those dreams ended with a broken lower leg in his senior year. It made him refocus on what he wanted to do with his life.
“Once I made the decision to become a teacher, it worked out very well,” he said.
Holmes applied for a teaching position in Wisconsin, and opted to move to the state in 1993 because new teachers earned a higher wage than in his native state.
After nine years in Montello — four years as a principal and five years as district administrator — he headed to Germantown in 2013, a district that has just under 4,000 students. He also helped get an $84 million referendum approved in that district.
In comparison, the Chippewa Falls school district has about 5,200 students.
“It’s two more elementaries, and an alternative high school,” he said. “It’s a large district, but it has a small-town feel to it.”
While saying the “heavy lifting has been done” and his job is to “stay the course” of what the district has accomplished in recent years, he acknowledges he will have a lot of work immediately.
“July 1, I’ll be hitting the ground running, because the first month or so is making sure we’re prepared to open schools in the fall,” Holmes said.
Holmes said his goal is to make it to every school building on the first day of classes.
While acknowledging he could retire soon, he is hopeful to stay here for the next five or so years.
“I feel like I’ll be given a good chance to help the district move forward,” he said.