Chris LaFerla has been appointed executive director of the Council Bluffs Community Education Foundation.
He replaces Butch Lecuona, who retired at the end of June.
LaFerla, currently dean of admissions and records at Iowa Western Community College, will start on Oct. 26, said Diane Ostrowski, chief communications officer at Council Bluffs Community Schools.
LaFerla said he would miss the many friends he has made at Iowa Western, but expected to partner with the college on some things, too.
The board is pleased with LaFerla, Chairman Barry Cleaveland said.
“He knows the community very well,” he said. “He has a real passion for education.”
Cleaveland said he thought LaFerla’s people, management and organizational skills would be assets to the foundation, which operates Kids & Company, the before- and after-school program serving Council Bluffs schools, as well as the Council Bluffs Alumni & Friends Network and the STAR scholarship program.
The foundation also awards classroom grants and supports the school district with staff appreciation, student recognition and other programs.
LaFerla grew up in Council Bluffs and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. He also attended Iowa Western, he said.
“If I hadn’t made that decision to go to Iowa Western and pursue a degree, I’m definitely sure I wouldn’t have been as happy,” he said.
LaFerla then transferred to Simpson College in Indianola to study education.
“After I did my student teaching, I was re-thinking whether I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I think I realized that being in front of a classroom wasn’t for me.”
Instead, LaFerla came back to the local area and got a job as an academic advisor at Iowa Western.
“I really liked working with high school students and convincing them that some sort of post-secondary education is necessary these days to get a good job and do something that is meaningful to you professionally and personally,” he said.
He was promoted to assistant director of admissions, then director of admissions, and started his current position about five years ago, he said.
A few years ago, LaFerla was exploring how he might be able to give back to the community.
“I also really care about Council Bluffs, and I wanted to be involved,” he said. “My vice president here at the college suggested I look into running for the school board.”
LaFerla was elected two years ago and is serving a four-year term.
“Serving on the school board is a very rewarding, fulfilling experience and has done a lot to educate me on the challenges of running a school district,” he said.
Still, LaFerla wanted to have a broader impact on the community, he said. That’s what led him to apply for the position at the foundation.
“State support for public education is insufficient,” he said. “School districts are really faced with a lot of very difficult decisions, as far as how to save money.”
LaFerla said he realizes state revenue is tight and feels that it’s time to find additional sources of funding.
“We can’t really rely on the state support to deliver the type of high-quality education that the people of our community deserve,” he said.
Because the foundation is a separate organization, being on the school board does not constitute a conflict of interest, Ostrowski said. LaFerla confirmed that before applying for the position at the foundation, she said.
LaFerla and his wife, Lea, have two daughters who attend second grade and kindergarten in the district, he said.