Joe Dessenberger - Window Covers (copy)

School district Director of Operations Joe Dessenberger closes one of the steel door window covers in a new tornado safe room that was constructed at Park Hill Elementary.

Sometimes it’s almost impossible to not explore an open door.

That day is coming on Sept. 27 as USD 260 Director of Operations Joe Dessenberger says goodbye to Derby and takes a step back toward his military roots.

Having served with the Kansas Air National Guard since 1989, Dessenberger has officially accepted a position as the deputy director of installation support at McConnell Air Force Base.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the schools and the people of Derby,” he said. “It’s a wonderful community and I’ve made great friendships inside City Hall with some of the local business community … it was a very tough decision to leave.”

He has been with Derby Public Schools since June 2016. Dessenberger first came as director of operations before adding finance to that title after the retirement of longtime district employee Don Adkisson. He later dropped the addition and was solely director of operations once again.

Dessenberger said his new position has recently been created, but he’s always felt ties to the work done on base.

“It is my culture,” he added. “You take a fireman out of a fire station and you have them doing something else, he’ll keep looking at the fire station thinking, ‘I wish I was still fighting fires.’”

Dessenberger said he’s long had an interest in project management, allowing his new role to tie into his passion of the Air Force.

“The mission is to protect the nation and to ensure the readiness of the people [and] equipment that is required to perform a particular mission that a base has been asked to do,” Dessenberger said of the Air Force. “Going to work every day knowing we need equipment and personnel that can do whatever task is asked for our nation is very important to me.”

As he enters his final two weeks at USD 260, Dessenberger said he’s particularly proud of the work being done in transportation to keep the vehicle fleet on tap with innovation. He also said the increase in hourly wages has allowed them to retain high-quality staff.

“We spend more money now to fix facilities than we did in 2016, but we’re spending more money on prevention and it’s reducing our long-term cost and avoiding quick fixes,” he later added.

As the district reaches a “midpoint” of bond projects, Dessenberger said each project will serve the community well in the future.

“Young families are going to look at your school system and how great your teachers and programs are,” he said. “They’re also looking at [athletics] … ‘My kid is going to play basketball and where can they play ball? What does your home court look like?’ Whether you agree or disagree, we need to take care of our athletic facilities and it’s a part of the bigger picture.”