Willie E. Garrison II, the new superintendent for the Beloit School District, was preparing his transition to Beloit in his mind when you applied for the role this past summer.
“The transition actually starts when you apply,” Garrison told the Daily News. “People miss those steps. I’ve been transitioning to the thought of Beloit since summer. I’ve shown up and I feel like I’ve been here already.”
His official first day was Monday, and he has been having non-stop meetings with staff and teachers. He also was meeting some students at Hackett Elementary School Thursday morning.
“Number one, the School District of Beloit is a wonderful place to work,” Garrison said. “Let’s just put it on the table. I think it’s very important to note and promote that it has a deep history about it. Coming here, I’ve heard so much about the School District of Beloit. There’s some people that absolutely love it here.”
The diversity of students in the district is also part of what drew Garrison to Beloit. According to the district report card from Wisconsin Department of Instruction, student groups are broken down into the following: 34.7% Hispanic or Latino; 32.8% White students, 21.9% Black of African American students; 9.5% students who are two or more races; 0.7% Asian students; 0.4% American Indian of Alaskan Native students; and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students.
“Putting us all in the room with different mindsets, different ethnicities, different points of perspectives, I believe you will automatically get the highest outcomes,” he said.
Garrison adds that he believes the opportunities are in the district because the students are in the right place with the right people. For him, there are three things that are very important to him: service, continuous improvement and student achievement.
“Within those things, you will get a wide variety of different branches that kind of flows from them,” he said. “That’s always been who I am. My background is in those three areas.”
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll share it again, you can’t get to a point where you’ve made it,” he said. “If you’ve arrived, retire on top while the rest of us continuously improve.”
Garrison was born in Oklahoma, one of the middle children of five siblings. He said his family moved around the south a lot while he was growing up. Two of his siblings now live in Florida. One sister and his mother now live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“The middle is always the glue,” he said. “I keep everything together and that’s kind of my role.”
He made his way to the Milwaukee area in 2003 for a job with Marquette University’s Upward Bound program. At the position, he met his wife Camille Garrison who is now a physician. The couple have three children: Willie Garrison III, Solomon and Allyse.
In his free time, Garrison enjoys reading or listening to an audiobook. He’s big on being outdoors and loves the water, which includes participating in water sports like swimming and snorkeling. He said his wife jokes that he has fins. He also said that he is a man of faith who attends church and loves to spend time with his wife and kids.
Garrison is focusing on the upcoming year by focusing on community growth and continuous improvement.
“I’d like to do the learning, it’s workplace learning,” he said. “I think my history and my track record speaks for itself. I’m honored to have this opportunity and amongst the many challenges that the school district has had over the last few years, I’m honored to be here and serve in this community.”