One of the most familiar faces in Waconia Public Schools has announced his plans to retire at the end of this school year. Peter Gustafson, who has served as the district’s middle school principal for the past 20 years, revealed his plans in a letter that was discussed during the Waconia School Board meeting on Jan. 13.
In the letter, Gustafson wrote he felt “mixed feelings and some trepidation” regarding his retirement, which will be effective June 30, 2014 and was accepted by the school board during the meeting.
“I started kindergarten when I was 4 years old so at the time of my retirement I will have been attending school as a student or educator without break for 60 years,” Gustafson wrote. “Therein lies the trepidation. I really don’t know what people do if they do not go to school every day.”
Gustafson has worked in ISD #110 since August 1979, which equates to 35 years of service to the district. During that time, Gustafson has served under five superintendents and held several different positions.
In a brief summary of his career, Gustafson started out as a guidance counselor for the junior high division of the combined Waconia Junior/Senior High School in what is now Bayview Elementary School. At this time, he served two consecutive terms as the president of the Waconia Education Association.
After becoming the dean of students for the junior high section, Gustafson was asked by then Superintendent Allen Frazier to lead a community planning committee toward the eventual establishment of a middle school comprised of grades 5 and 6 taken from an overcrowded Southview Elementary School building and grades 7 and 8 from the junior/senior high school.
Gustafson was installed as the interim principal of the newly established Bayview Middle School and a year later, he was hired as the middle school principal.
During this time, Gustafson was a key player in the planning of Clearwater Middle School, which housed the middle school program for the first time in 2001.
Under Gustafson’s leadership in the subsequent years, Clearwater grew in size both as a building (a major addition was completed six years after the building opened) and in enrollment (the school had 470 students in 2001 and has grown to 1,155 students this year). Gustafson noted work to redesign the middle school program, an effort that resulted in the variable length period schedule and markedly increased student test scores.
Gustafson expressed his gratitude to those who entrusted him with the opportunities to exercise leadership in the district and serve the students and families of ISD #110.
“It is with more than a little pride that I contemplate the current middle school program, faculty and student body,” Gustafson wrote in his letter. “My children are grown but all have had very positive experiences during their times as students in District 110. This has been especially rewarding for my wife and me.”
Superintendent Dr. Nancy Rajanen, who is also retiring at the end of this school year, took a moment during the meeting to express her appreciation for Gustafson’s many years of dedication to the district and noted that Gustafson’s commitment to excellence has raised the district’s level of professionalism.
Also during the meeting, School Board Chairman Brian Rothstein led a discussion detailing the next steps regarding the impending superintendent search.
In recent weeks, the district has sought proposals from seven known search firms and received proposals from the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA), School Exec Connect, HYA Executive Search and BKB Executive Search Consultants. Of those, the board has invited all but the MSBA to give a formal presentation during a workshop and a public special meeting that will be held at the district office starting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 27.
The presentations will give a chance for the board to learn more about each firm (such as experience, price and other variables) before it makes a selection. Each presentation, which will include time for the board to ask questions, is expected to last approximately 35 to 40 minutes.
According to Rothstein, the goal is to choose a firm that evening, if possible, but he conceded that if necessary, more time would be taken to reach a decision. In the meantime, the public is welcome to contact school board members with any feedback regarding the superintendent search before the board holds its special meeting on Jan. 27 (one can find contact information on the district website at www.waconia.new.rschooltoday.com).
In other matters:
• Kim Hillberg of CliftonLarsonAllen gave a presentation on the district’s audit regarding the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013. According to Hillberg, the district had a clean, unmodified audit and she noted that there were no findings to report. Hillberg praised the district for having a clean audit and the results spoke highly of the district’s financial staff and the work that they do.
• After a number of board reviews and discussion with various stakeholders in recent months, the district’s new field trip and travel policy was approved by the board. Rothstein publicly thanked everyone involved in the process of creating the policy, which was totally new but based on similar policies from other school districts.
• Rajanen acknowledged the district’s paraprofessionals in recognition of Paraprofessional Education Week being celebrated in Minnesota Jan. 12-18. Rajanen, a former paraprofessional, touched on the valuable role paraprofessionals play for students, especially those with special needs.
• The latest district enrollment figures are 3,683 students, an increase of 124 students from last year and 265 more than two years ago. According to Finance and Operations Director Todd Swanson, the district is over its rated capacity at each level and 183 students over capacity district wide.
• The board held an organizational meeting before the regular meeting on Jan. 13.
At that meeting, Rothstein was reelected as board chairman. John Weinand was reelected as vice board chairman. The 2014 salaries were approved at $3,300 for school board members, $600 for the school board chair, and $300 for members of the Negotiations / Personnel Committee. The salaries represent a $100 raise for both the school board members and the school board chair positions compared to 2013.
• The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 10.
Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]