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Beginning 2023, Diagonal administration looks a little different, yet familiar as Karleen Stephens stepped down as superintendent after 45 years in education.
Assuming the role of superintendent is Larry McNutt, a 1991 graduate of Diagonal.
McNutt has always wanted to be in education since he was young, pursuing that aspiration after high school through Buena Vista University, achieving an undergrad before receiving a masters degree in special education through Morningside College.
“Ever since I was pretty little I knew I wanted to be involved in sports to begin with,” said McNutt. “I was a high school coach for a long time and it slowly evolved into being a teacher and administration.”
Most recently, McNutt attended Northwest Missouri State University to receive his two administrative degrees.
Before coming back home to Diagonal, McNutt was a paraprofessional at Mount Ayr, Alta and Boyer Valley, while also taking on activity director and coaching roles.
McNutt even left the state, teaching in South Dakota before coming back to Iowa and working in special education at Creston for two stints before taking a position at BCIU for one year.
Meeting his future wife, who lived in Creston, brought him back to the area where he was able to work in Essex.
The Diagonal principal position would then open up where McNutt would come back to his alma mater and take on different challenges than he has in the past.
“I had interviewed for a couple of years. We didn’t want to move and wanted something in the area and the timing was just right,” said McNutt. “It came down to two jobs and this worked out for me. I want to see the school keep going and it just worked out.”
Taking over for Karleen Stephens is no easy task, but McNutt believes he is up for the task.
“She [Stephens] talked to me several times the first year, that first summer and the more I thought about it I decided to give it a go,” said McNutt. “I understood what she meant because we needed a Diagonal person. It takes a person to know what you can and can’t do. I’m very happy to do it and very excited.”
The main focus of his position is to keep the doors open for years to come, managing finances and making sure the school stays compliant with state requirements.
“We have to watch our finances and can’t go on a spending spree. We have to make sure they make sense and make sure we are offering the right classes,” said McNutt. “You only have so many teachers and Mount Ayr helps. We have a great staff that is willing to teach whatever it is we need them to teach.”
The job isn’t just about money.
Being one of the smallest schools in the state has its rewards.
“Our staff knows every kid. They get to know them and understand what they go through outside of school,” said McNutt. “Everyone talks about school being like a family but it really is here. For example Mrs. Bentley was teaching here when I went to school and there are a lot of those connections you make, which also made it easy for me when I started.”
The community is a big part of the school, and vice versa.
“It’s off the charts. Not many schools can match that,” said McNutt. “There’s people that don’t have kids in school here anymore and they want to see a school here and will do about whatever it takes to make that happen.”
Change is the only constant and Diagonal continues to roll with the changes as McNutt looks to keep the doors open and continuing to provide quality education for the students in, and around, Diagonal.