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BVU Grads Named Principals in Storm Lake District

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The Storm Lake Community School District recently named two new principals to guide schools within the community. Both professionals are Buena Vista University graduates.

Megan (O’Malley) Richardson ’02 formally began her tenure as Storm Lake Middle School Principal on Jan. 4. Michael Sullivan ’05 will serve as principal of the new Storm Lake Early Elementary School, set to open in January 2022.

Richardson and Sullivan taught together as members of the Storm Lake Middle School sixth-grade teaching team six years ago, two of six team members who possessed BVU diplomas. Now, as administrators, they join a team that boasts multiple BVU graduates, including Dr. Stacey Cole, Storm Lake Superintendent of Schools, a 1996 BVU graduate.

“I often think about the administrators in Storm Lake and how actively they were involved in teams or organizations at BVU,” says Richardson, a softball player during her undergraduate days. “I think it says something about being as actively involved in your community as you can. I know, in my case, at least, being a member of a team at BVU helped me grow as a person into more of a leader.”

Sullivan, who played football for the Beavers, says it was no accident his best semesters academically coincided with football. The busier he was, he says, the better commitment he made toward organizing his time and hitting the books.

“When I was in a more structured environment, like during football season, I was more productive in class,” he says.

Both Beavers mention retired BVU Professor of Education Dr. Stanley Bochtler as a key influence. “Dr. Bochtler was my advisor all four years,” Sullivan says of the 2001 George Wythe Winner for excellence in teaching at BVU. “He was always able to share his experience and thought process. He never talked over me; he walked WITH me.”

Sullivan, a Woodbine native, and Richardson, born and raised in Storm Lake, also have career similarities in that each served several school districts, at varying grade levels, and broke into instructional coaching before they became administrators.

Sullivan taught in Arizona, Illinois, Connecticut, and in eastern Iowa before relocating to Storm Lake with his wife and BVU classmate, optometrist Dr. Megan Sullivan ’05, in 2013. He started his Storm Lake tenure as a kindergarten teacher, then taught sixth-graders for one year before becoming an instructional strategist, then Storm Lake Elementary School Assistant Principal. He also coached the Tornadoes on the football field for seven seasons.

"While I know I'll miss coaching next fall, I'm excited for the opportunity to help lead this new adventure of opening a new school for the students and staff in Storm Lake,” Sullivan says. “I know I'll pull from my experiences and relationships as we help students transition into their new school next January." 

Richardson, meantime, helps direct learners at Storm Lake Middle School, a site she attended as a seventh-grader during its first year of operation. For the first time in its history, Storm Lake Middle School has gone from a site educating children in grades 5-8 to a structure where students in grades 3-6 learn each day. That change is a result of physical distancing requirements necessitated by the prevalence of COVID-19. If the virus were to largely dissipate by next fall, the school will return to a center for grades 5-8.

Richardson’s teaching experience includes years at Council Bluffs Lewis-Central, Schaller-Crestland, RidgeView, and Storm Lake Middle School, where she returned eight years ago to teach math and social studies. She became an instructional coach in the local district four years ago, then worked as an instructional strategist before earning her current title. She has also coached softball and basketball at various points in her career.

“When I started my teaching career, I knew I wanted to be a principal,” says Richardson, who, like her husband, Matt Richardson, is a 1998 Storm Lake High School graduate. “And then as I started teaching, I had a few doubts, because I saw how challenging the job of principal can be. As I changed roles and got into more of the teaching-leadership positions, I sought out more training and it came into focus for me. This is really something I wanted to do for our district.”

(credit Tim Gallagher)