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Manus savors role as RCS superintendent
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Ripon Christian High School superintendent Kerry Manus at his desk. - photo by GLENN KAHL
RIPON — It’s a perfect fit as superintendent of Ripon Christian Schools,  according to the man who stepped into that leadership role at the start of the semester.

Kerry Manus has a background in education plus has been a human resources manager in the corporate world giving him a wide spectrum of professional experience after graduating from Dort College in Sioux City, IA.

He and his wife Jennifer moved into the area from northern Illinois in the middle of the summer.  Manus had served as principal of the 1600 student Auburn High School in Rockford with grades sophomore through senior years.  His wife was employed as a police officer in Freeport, Illinois with her last assignment in the detective ranks.

After 10 years as an officer she decided to stay home after he became a school administrator mostly because they had children still in the home, he said.  At that time they had one in high school, one in middle school and one in grade school – it was just too much with two younger children,  he added.  

Manus’ hometown was German Valley, Ill. – a community of 300 – where he grew up on a family complete with cattle and growing corn and soy beans and, of course, teenaged chores.  He was quick to note his parents are in their early 80s and are still active in running their spread.

“They already drove out here to visit us – they shouldn’t have but they did,” he said.

As an educator he still remembers his first grade teacher – a Mrs. Brunny.  His second grade teacher’s name has faded, but he recalls she used to pinch her students’ arms when they were naughty.

First grade, on the other hand, was remembered as “a very engaging classroom” where students even had a post office in the classroom that they utilized and the children actually took turns in being the post master.  He said that their first grade teacher had them doing a lot of nature activities outside and field trips that took them to ice cream and spice making shops.  

Manus said his special primary teacher was at that school for her entire career seen as a “very engaging teacher” by just about everybody in the community.  He said he sees the same qualities in the teachers at Ripon Christian as being very engaging – “that’s what I want here,” he said.

As for Mrs. Brunny, he said that she is still living – lives just up the road from his parents in German Valley.  And then there was Mrs. McCoy who he remembers as a “very, sweet, sweet person who read the Hardy Boys stories” to the class a couple of times a day –she’d ask the class about the scenarios when she was done.

“That was the year I had to wear glasses and I remember her helping me and being very kind to me getting over the stigma,” he said.  “All the teachers I had showed a personal concern and I had a very engaging environment.”

He noted that he had grown up in the Christian Reformed Church attending the public elementary and high school, because there wasn’t a Christian school near to his rural farm home where his parents continually encouraged him as he was growing up.  Those primary teachers he had in his early years helped develop his character because they supported the same values he was getting from his parents and from his church, he surmised.

“My dad always encouraged me to talk to people. – even as a first and second grader. He had a lot to do with my being an extrovert and a people person,” Manus said.  Others he remembers encouraging him as he got older,  to step up into leadership roles,  were his basketball coaches who recognized his ability to encourage other players.   He would also run track while in high school.

Growing up in the very small community, his family knew everyone with both of his parents being very outgoing individuals, he added.  “My mother could get up and talk in front of any group and I also witnessed my mother getting up in church – involved in the PTA and not afraid to speak in public.  That had a lot to do with my character,” he said.

Manus said he found the job in Ripon while looking at the Christian Schools International website on his laptop computer while sitting in his living room and looking for another position in Illinois.   He typed off an application and a resume’ emailing it within minutes being intrigued by the California location.

He said he hadn’t looked at that website in probably 25 years when the Ripon Christian superintendent position popped up.

“I knew of some people in college from Ripon, so I thought I would take a look at that one.  They were looking for someone with some business experience and administrative experience,” he recalled.  

The next thing he knew he got a call for a phone interview with the last one the on line asking the question: “How come you’re always last in sprints in college basketball?”

That was Brian Voss who is COO in The Wine Group who had played on the same basketball team at Dort, not knowing he was in Ripon and associated with the Christian schools – definitely a small world.

The Manus family brings with it  five children, Stephen, 24; Kendrick, 23; Mikayla, 17, a junior at RC; Teagan, 14, a freshman at Ripon Christian and Elliot, 8, a second grader.