Royall’s Mark Gruen named Superintendent of the Year

ELROY, Wis. (WKBT) — Royall School District’s Mark Gruen — a former educator in La Crosse and Onalaska — was named the 2020 Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year Thursday by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.

Gruen has led the Royall School District, which includes the communities of Elroy and Kendall, since 2010 and brought the district out of financial hardship, according to WASDA.

“Gruen has led Royall on a total transformation academically, fiscally, and structurally over the past 10 years,” said Ryan McKittrick, a nine-year member of the Royall School Board. “We would not be where we are today without his relentless work ethic and deep commitment to our students’ success.”

Gruen is known for taking on all tasks big or small. In his first year at Royall, he filled ice cube trays and ice bags for the athletes before and after school. During the outdoor athletic field upgrade, he personally met the cement truck and led the cement crew on more than 25 occasions. When the new football stadium bleachers arrived, he was able to get 52 volunteers to show up on a hot July weekend to help assemble them.

As a Royall alumnus, Gruen has a true commitment to the Royall community. He helped start the Royall Alumni Association, which spawned the Royall Hall of Recognition. Gruen is the chair of the committee that recognizes Royall Alumni on an annual basis. “I am incredibly humbled and honored to accept this award from WASDA on behalf of the entire Royall School District community,” Gruen said. “The success we have had at Royall has been a team effort. We have sensational teaching and support staff helping our administrative and supervisory teams. Our parents and community members are very supportive of our schools. Together, we have led the district from a low point to a spot where we all feel very good about the quality of the Royall experience.”

Gruen holds a specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Winona State University, a master’s degree in Education from Viterbo College and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from UW-La Crosse. Prior to his work at Royall, he served as district administrator and high school/middle school principal in the Eleva-Strum School District. He was also a principal in the Onalaska School District and activities director in the La Crosse School District.

“We are very pleased to recognize Mark Gruen with the Superintendent of the Year Award,” said Jon Bales, executive director of WASDA. “When he began serving as district administrator in Royall, the district was in a tough situation—just like so many rural districts have been. Through his exceptional leadership, the district is now in a much better financial position and the community has truly rallied around its local schools. Mr. Gruen exemplifies how strong leadership can have an enormous and positive impact on a school district like Royall.”

Gruen will represent Wisconsin in the National Superintendent of the Year program at AASA’s National Conference on Education in February 2021. He lives in Elroy with his wife, Sarah, and children Emma (18 years old), Bryce (17), Marah (15) and Bria (12) .