Joe Conkle takes the reins as Walkerville’s new superintendent

August 3, 2023

Joe Conkle takes the reins as Walkerville’s new superintendent

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

WALKERVILLE — Walkerville’s new superintendent has an agricultural, military and sports background, and he’s an Oceana County native.

Joe Conkle, 39, took the top job at Walkerville Public Schools, July 1, when Dr. Tom Langdon retired. 

Conkle, who served as Walkerville’s K-12 principal for five years prior to taking the superintendent position, will handle both roles for the time being. “I will wear both of those hats for a while.” Conkle said he will rely on his assistant principal, Ashley Droste. “She stepped into the assistant principal role last year, and she’s fantastic.”

A 2002 Hesperia High School graduate, Conkle was a three-sport athlete competing in wrestling, football and baseball. 

“We have a family farm. I was born and raised in this area. My dad was from Walkerville, so I have a lot of ties to this community. I love farming — it’s in my blood. My grandpa and I still run the farm — that’s what I do in the summer.”

Conkle enlisted in the US Army right after high school. “I did nine years in the Army — three active and six in the National Guard.” He was deployed to Iraq in 2008. 

After he came back from the war, he worked at Valley View Pork in Walkerville. He took college classes while in the army and then obtained an associate’s degree from Muskegon Community College. 

His introduction to the education field came kind of as a surprise. One of his friends called him “out of the blue” and asked him to substitute teach at Hesperia. “I absolutely loved it.”

It inspired him to return to college to get a bachelor’s degree, which he obtained at Ferris State University. He then obtained his master’s degree in educational leadership at Western Michigan University. “After that, I moved into an athletic director position at Hesperia that morphed into assistant principal.” In 2018, he was hired as principal at Walkerville Public Schools.

He and his wife Breann have four children who are all enrolled in the Walkerville school system — in first, fifth, seventh and ninth grades.

“We want to continue to show people what a small, rural school can do. We’ve been blessed with a continuous enrollment boost over the last few years. We have a lot of community support.” Enrollment at the K-12 school is 275.

“The community has stepped up twice the last couple of years with the sinking fund and the bond. There are a lot of infrastructure updates. We’ve done a lot of work in our athletic facilities.”

A big change coming for the Wildcats is its first-ever football team this year in the school’s nearly 120-year history. The program begins with a middle school squad this season and will expand to the high school level in the coming years.

“I’m really thankful to be here and really thankful for the opportunity. We’ve got such an incredible staff. It’s really amazing to see our community work with our staff and vice versa. Our board of education has been very supportive — (school board president) George Wolgamott is incredible. I can’t imagine working in a better place.”

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