For 13 years, Lance Roweton led the Bolivar High School Liberator football team as head coach. For three years, he led Halfway High School as principal. Starting this month, he’ll have the opportunity to lead Halfway School District as its top administrator, succeeding Tim Boatwright, who headed the district for 13 years.
Roweton and his brother Brock, who is the head coach at Willard, received the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame’s Elite 11 award in 2018. For the longtime coach and star athlete starting his 22nd year in education, there are similarities in leading a team on the gridiron and leading a school district.
“Coaching is a lot about organization and being systematic in what you do,” Roweton said. “There’s a lot of interpersonal skills that you must use with players and parents to get them on board with what’s happening within your program. That translates into administration, because now you’re creating a vision for the school and the district.”
Roweton’s move to the district office coincides with administrative changes that see Halfway reducing its administrative staff from three to two, with Halfway Elementary School principal Karla Spear taking on the role of K-12 principal.
Roweton said the decision came about through talks with Spear, Boatwright and the school board. Halfway’s enrollment has seen a decline, and the move makes financial sense, he said.
“The main thing we’re wanting to do is be conservative on our budget as far as administrative costs for the district but also provide a good service for our students,” Roweton said.
So far, he said, district staff believe in the administrative plan.
“One thing that we feel will make this work is I’ve been at the high school for three years,” he said. “I know every kid in grades seven through 12. Karla has been here for more than 10 years, and she has had all these kids in elementary school.”
Those tight-knit connections are part of why Roweton said he feels like the district is destined for success.
“Last year, we only lost one teacher districtwide,” he said. “Teachers come here, and they want to stay. We’ve got small class sizes. We’ve got kids that are very respectful and want to learn, and we’ve got support from their parents.”
According to previous BH-FP coverage, the district is one of several in Polk County that have adjusted to four-day school weeks, a move Boatwright previously told the BH-FP had been popular with teachers.
In the past three years, Roweton said the district has been able to focus on its student technology, providing students with computers at a 1:1 ratio on top of the district’s computer labs.
“The thing about technology is that it’s a constant fight,” he said. “As soon as you buy something, it starts to get old and that’s certainly a districtwide focus we’re trying to stay ahead of. Our kids are being taught and trained for jobs that don’t even exist yet, so we’re trying to teach them to think and to be problem solvers and to use technology.”
That’s the goal, he said, to give students an education and build them into citizens of the future.
Making an impact
In his early 20s, standing at the beginning of a career in education that has so far spanned 22 years, Roweton can still recall a conversation with a close friend, pondering the potential impact he could have on students.
“I told him I felt like I could really make a difference with being a teacher and a coach,” he said.
After graduating from Bolivar High School in 1994, Roweton attended Southwest Baptist University and William Jewell College, playing football and baseball. He started his career at Ash Grove and stayed for four seasons before coming to Bolivar.
Roweton earned his school superintendent specialist degree from SBU in 2008.
“I continued coaching for a while but always knew that I wanted to get into administration eventually,” he said.
Looking back, Roweton said he measures success by the students he’s seen go on to succeed outside the classroom.
“You want to see kids go out and be productive citizens in society,” he said. “That’s the goal. I’ve been in it long enough now that some of the guys I’ve taught and coached, they’re big business guys or they’re teachers themselves or doctors and lawyers. They’re well into their career. There’s a little bit of satisfaction knowing that you were part of the process.”
And, over time, Roweton said he hopes to watch that degree of impact grow.
“The longer you stay in this business, you see opportunities for growth opportunity,” he said. “First, you affect just your classroom. Then, you affect just your program if you’re a coach. Then you become a principal, and you affect an entire building and an entire student body, and now you get to a superintendent job and you’re making an impact on an entire district and maybe more of an impact on the community level.”
Roweton said he’s spent the spring and summer trying to ride the steep learning curve of becoming a superintendent. He said he’s asked a lot of questions. Boatwright has been an enduring source of help, he said.
“When you first start out, there are things you have to figure out and systems you have to create within yourself to make things work,” he said. “My first year being a principal, there were things I had to figure out, then I got pretty comfortable my second and third year. This job is no different.”
That work should culminate as the bell rings Monday, Aug. 15, for the first day of school, when Roweton said his job will bring him out into the hallways to check with Spear and the district cooks and teachers and transportation director to make sure things are running smoothly.
Roweton said he’s excited for that new beginning and for the opportunity to start new traditions for the district.
“Once we get into a routine, I think things will settle down a little bit,” he said.
That’s a credit to the district’s longtime staff, he said.
“I’m a new face to this job, but there are a lot of faces that have been here a long time, and they’re going to help keep this school great,” he said.