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Meet Superintendent Douglas Van Zyl

Top FD Community School District administrator shares his vision

January 16, 2011
Messenger News

Serving as the new superintendent and a new citizen to Fort Dodge, people often stop me to inquire about a project, program, or something heard in a past conversation regarding Fort Dodge Community Schools. Some also wonder what the "new guy" can offer to our district. In one of the largest school districts in the state of Iowa and the largest in the immediate area, that is certainly to be expected. In the midst of all the good, and some not so good times, the Fort Dodge Community School District is striving to be the premier educational institution for young people. The academic and co-curricular opportunities provided are incredible, and I have found little disagreement that FDCSD is home to great schools for great kids. We are proud of the traditions, culture and continued accomplishments of our students and staff. We are pleased with our district's success and we set our standards high. In order to continue to deliver excellence and be a leading institution, we realize that there is always room for improvement. This article highlights the Fort Dodge Community School District's points of excellence, while also focusing on a few of the objectives we continue to improve.


Our district is committed first and foremost to delivering a top-notch academic experience in a caring environment. Our greatest asset to meeting this challenge is our people. Our educators are highly competent and caring teachers who have students' best interests at heart. All of our teachers are certified by the state of Iowa to teach in their specific field. We are dedicated to bringing the most-qualified people into our schools that are driven with an inner passion for excellence. People who develop positive relationships with students, so students are willing to push the envelope academically. Regularly, our teachers partake in professional development activities and seminars so that they may provide additional value to their students.

Relevant curriculum

It is important that we continue to strive for a rigorous and relevant curriculum that not only excites kids about learning, but gives them a solid foundation in the basics and pushes them in the areas of creativity and problem solving. We take pride in our partnership with Iowa Central Community College, which allows students to graduate high school with numerous college credits under their belts. Currently, we look to build new buildings and update existing facilities so that we are not only fiscally responsible for our community, but educationally responsible by providing our kids 21st-century learning environments. In a digital economy, where new skills and different kinds of knowledge are valued by workplaces, it is important that our students can excel in a 21st-century atmosphere equipped with the necessary technology. We continue to improve our use and the students' access to technology. To prepare for new methods of instructional delivery, we are making gains by giving wireless access to students at the Senior High and purchasing new pieces of technology for staff and students to use. It is important to also make sure we are planning for the future, and the rapid change of technology. We strive to train and update our staff in the appropriate skills they need, so technology is utilized in the classroom to its fullest potential.


This year our district is also taking initiatives to improve communication, not only with parents and patrons, but internally as well. We have updated our website, hired a communications director, and are utilizing a new calling system, but there is still more to be done. Effective communication involves not only being able to speak and write clearly, but it also means listening and seeking input into the learning process. Often, in communities and school districts like ours that are experiencing limited growth and loss of assets, facts and communication can become lost in the shuffle. In our changing community, it is likely we hear things that may not be accurate. For me, it is essential all citizens have answers to questions. We here in the FDCSD are looking for new avenues of communication to help ensure our community members are well informed so that the many great things we do don't get overshadowed by the few things we can do better. Over the next few weeks and months we will be trying new things; like blogs, news articles on our updated website, newspaper articles, radio spots and community forums. Our goal is to increase our level of communication with our community.

A quality education system

The Fort Dodge Community School District strives to expand on partnerships to help attract people and business to our community. There are many things that people and businesses look for and value when they evaluate a community. Some of these things have changed over the years. However, one item has stood the test of time - a quality educational system. I am fortunate to be the superintendent in a community that strongly values public education. We are excited about the things we are able to do for our nearly 4,000 Fort Dodge Community School District students, and we are blessed to work in a supportive community in which education is held in high regard. We will continue to evaluate and improve the things we do in the Fort Dodge Community School District in order to serve as a leading educational institution. With our district's dedication, improvements and excellent opportunities, I am confident your sons and daughters will find their niche in our school district, so as they graduate they will be prepared to succeed in the world of higher education and professional development.

Being here only a short time, I know we are not perfect and our challenges are large. I believe our initiatives to better ourselves and our district are what sets FDCSD apart. Our goal is to learn from past mistakes, make constant improvements and grow with the community of Fort Dodge in order to become the premier educational community and institution for our young people.

Douglas Van Zyl is superintendent of the Fort Dodge Community School District.



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