New school leader: 'I do what's best for kids'

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2011 - 11:43 PM

Corey Lunn arrives in July to take over the Stillwater district as it embarks on major changes amid financial challenges.

Stillwater's next school superintendent, Corey Lunn, was described by board members as a rising superstar.

Lunn is currently the superintendent of Montgomery-Lonsdale School District, a 1,200-student district in rural Minnesota. Lunn served as a high school teacher for eight years before becoming an administrator 10 years ago.

Lunn will take over a 9,000-student district as it undergoes its first redistricting in more than a decade. Under its 2014 vision plan, the board also will consider whether to turn its junior high schools into middle schools and add space to its high school. The district, like many others, faces drastic budget shortfalls.

The 44-year-old Jackson, Minn., native is married and has two children.

The board plans to approve his contract this month. He will start July 1.

Q: What attracted you to the Stillwater job?

A: My wife and I knew that we wanted to transfer back to the suburbs because that's where we felt most comfortable. Also, there was the professional goal. Stillwater has a great reputation, and they do lots of great things for kids and it's a great place to live. So we thought, let's throw our name in and see what happens.

Q: One of the concerns that some of the board members and community members brought up is that you're coming from a small district and going to a much larger district. Do you think there will be a learning curve?

A: I want to remind people that I spent all of my career, 20-plus years, at a school district as big or bigger than Stillwater. It's just the last four that I was at a smaller district. But that was intentional because I knew I could be the best superintendent in a larger district if I could do all the little pieces. If you are an effective superintendent, it doesn't matter what size your district is. If you do the right things, if you involve people, you collaborate people, if you're visible, you're transparent, and do what's best for kids, it doesn't matter if you're in a district with 2,000 kids or 200,000 kids. Is there going to be some acclimation? Yeah. But that's for anybody. I really see my new role as being a person that really helps people think about things differently. And sometimes forcing people to think of things differently.

Q: Is there anything you'd like to do when you become superintendent? Do you have any plans so far or are you just going to wing it?

A: You have to develop those relationships right up front. So I'm going to be out in the community and out in the schools meeting with groups, meeting with business people, meeting with the mayor. That's the Number One goal.

They have embarked on the strategic planning process. Well, they've begun that process. That vision is now my vision, and I have to finish that. There will be opportunities within that process for me to give ideas and suggestions, and I'll do that.

The third thing is, they just figured their boundary plans for elementary schools. And now we have to think of the secondary level. What does that mean for middle school, high school kids? There are some growth issues there, and some class issues that we have to look at.

I think we need to look at how our organizational plan fits to support schools and support learning.

I'll be looking through the department budgets and sharing ideas on ways to be efficient there with a new set of eyes. The budget is healthy but with the no increase in as many years from the state, there's going to be some pressure. I've been told that a fall referendum is to be strongly considered or else we'll probably have to be looking at making some budget adjustments. My goal is to be on the front end of that and find ways to be efficient with the budget. I want to make sure that we clearly identify what we need to sustain, what we have there now and make sure that's explained to the community and decide if we need to come out with a vote or not.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like people to know?

A: When I decided I wanted to be a superintendent, I thought, if my filter is always what's best for the kids -- and those kids include my own kids -- then I could live with all my decisions. If I ever feel I'm not doing that, it'll be time for me to step aside. There will be things that the superintendent does that'll make one person very upset. That's no matter what. Over time, you upset everybody. How do you go home and feel OK with those decisions? And I rest comfortably because I do what's best for kids.

Daarel Burnette II• 651-735-1695

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