ALGONA - Temporary changes are coming to Bishop Garrigan Catholic Schools in Algona, but the school system's leader, Gene Meister, is confident the administration will be left in good hands.
Meister, who has been with Bishop Garrigan Schools for 25 years, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma in the blood, in 2009. Since then, he has undergone various treatments, close to home, at Mercy North Iowa Medical Center in Mason City, allowing him to continue to work.
But the next round of treatment, a blood marrow transplant, will be done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and will require Meister to be gone from his job.
"It's a cancer that is treatable for an extended period of time," said Meister. "The next step in the treatment is a blood marrow transplant, but they want to treat it at a certain level before they do that."
Meister will go to the Mayo Clinic Nov. 12 to begin the process of harvesting stem cells, undergoing chemotherapy and receiving the transplant. The entire transplant process will take more than two months, Meister said, which will require him to be absent from his job as president of the school.
During his absence, the administrative roles will be shared between Lynn Miller, the seventh- through 12th-grade principal at Bishop Garrigan and Mike Stence, who has served in various positions within the school system.
"A lot of what we do we already share," said Meister. "We all work with the board, finances, development, leadership and communication. We have been doing all of that for a long time. The biggest thing will be support. I have no concerns for the administrative duties; I have a great deal of respect in Lynn and Mike."
Miller has served Bishop Garrigan Schools in many capacities since 1988, including music teacher, counselor and principal.
Stence has also served in a number of roles, including principal.
"Mr. Meister has provided direction for various leadership teams within our school system that meet on a regular basis," said Stence. "With this model in place we will continue to move forward as a school system during his absence."
Meister's absence will come in the middle of the school's capital campaign, which is raising funds to build a new gymnasium. Meister said he will keep up on the campaign and looks forward to hearing about the progress while he is gone.
"So many people are working on that project," said Meister. "There are hundreds of people who are working behind the scenes on that. There is an extra energy level for this project and I am looking forward to getting the numbers."
"We've got a great support team and great leadership here even in his absence," Miller said.
"We'll not only be missing our leader during this time," said Stence, "but also a close friend."