Dan Strodtman has ink in his blood.
That’s why it won’t be easy when the retiring Valley View School District 365U Director of Print Shop Operations leaves his “office” for the last time in a few months.
“My wife (VVSD transportation payroll clerk Linda…who is also retiring) and I love to travel and we both love to be outside,” Strodtman said, adding the plan is to move to Arizona to be near their two children, utilize a newly- purchased motor home and enjoy the outdoors. “That’s my plan for the first few years anyway. We’ll see how it goes.”
Strodtman has been around printing operations since he was 12-years-old, getting a jump on what would be his future career helping a neighbor operate an old letterpress in his garage.
When he enrolled as a young 14-year-old sophomore at Joliet East High School, he entered the school district’s work study program, putting in four hours a day in the district print shop at Joliet Central during the school year and working 8 hours a day during the summer.
“That’s where I learned so much about this trade,” he recalled.
Upon graduation, he was hired to work full time in the District 204 print shop, a position he held for more than a year before accepting a job on the four-man press team of Lockport-based Georgia Pacific.
A year later Valley View beckoned.
"Valley View’s operation was about the size of our copy room now. It wasn’t very big,” Strodtman said, “But there was more work than we could handle. I was mostly an operator and not a coordinator.”
Despite limited typesetting capabilities and without any type of computers, Strodtman and his “assistant” churned out roughly five million “impressions” in a year in the late 1970s. (Today the Print Shop handles 45 million impressions and employs six full timers and two part timers.)
As Print Shop operations continued to grow under his leadership, Strodtman’s title was changed from “coordinator” to “director” in the 1990s. But his dedication to the job never changed.
“We’ve always answered the bell, no matter the circumstance, no matter how busy we are,” he said. “We’ll do it and we’ll do it well.”
Strodtman credits his staff with that success.
“We have people who have been here 10, 20, 30 years,” he said. “Anytime you work in an environment that has four closed walls, it can be very stressful. But we’ve all stayed close. And we all take pride in what we do.”
Strodtman is proud of the fact that the Print Shop has been able to stay on the cutting edge of technology including such innovations as web-to-print via e-mail long before e-mail was in vogue.
“Back then (late 1990s) we didn’t know what the future would hold. It was very innovative on our part,” he said. “Today classroom teachers can sit on their sofas on aSunday night, place an order and have the work within 24 hours.”
Also high on Strodtman’s list of innovations is the use of “variable data” software so report cards and other mailings can be personalized to each individual student or household.
But at the very top of his “pride and joy” list is centralizing the school district’s copying operations which has saved VVSD millions of dollars and countless hours of classroom instruction time.
“A lot of districts have copiers in their buildings,” he said, pointing out that creates long lines at the copier as teachers and staff take turns copying their materials, not to mention huge maintenance bills. “We make it easy and convenient for them because most of our curriculum materials come through here.”
As for advice for his successor, Strodtman merely says “care about what you do.”
Simple words of wisdom from the man who has followed those words to the letter for the past 33 years with Valley View.