Stillwater superintendent digs into levy issues on first day

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2011 - 10:17 PM

Corey Lunn led the Montgomery-Lonsdale district for four years.

Corey Lunn's first day as superintendent of Stillwater Area Schools brought a taste of some of the challenges he'll face.

He had the usual introductory meetings with staff and the information technology department to get his computer up and running, and he got a quick tour of a few of the district's schools.

But he also dove right into meetings with community leaders and administrators to discuss a possible school levy referendum and two bonds that might be placed on the November ballot, all aimed at avoiding future budget cuts.

"It's rare that a new superintendent is asked to go to the public and ask for financial support," he said. "But I'm very excited to be coming to work today. It's been very busy. I'm trying to get acclimated to a new environment and new structure."

Lunn recently led the Montgomery-Lonsdale School District, a 1,200-student district in rural Minnesota. He also was a high school teacher for eight years before becoming an administrator 10 years ago.

Lunn is taking over the 9,000-student Stillwater district as it undergoes its first redrawing of school attendance lines in more than a decade. Under its 2014 plan, the board will consider whether to turn junior high schools into middle schools and add space to Stillwater Area High School.

Meanwhile, the district, like many others, faces drastic budget shortfalls.

At last month's school board meeting, Interim Superintendent Tom Nelson encouraged board members to ease budget shortfalls by seeking voter approval for replacing the current operating levy with one that would provide $1,567 per student -- the maximum the state allows. That would raise about $6 million a year, and even with that, the district still would need to reduce expenditures by $2 million to $4 million.

Nelson also proposed placing two questions on the ballot that would fund new technology and the renovation of science labs at the high school and Oak-Land Junior High School.

After Lunn became superintendent of Montgomery-Lonsdale's schools four years ago, that district passed two referendums. One helped renovate district buildings and paid for a new high school and an elementary and middle-school building. The other helped install new technology in district classrooms.

Lunn, picked for the Stillwater job, in part, because of his success in getting those referendums passed in Montgomery-Lonsdale, said he would be ready to push for a levy and bond issue in Stillwater in the coming months.

"My job is to do what's best for the students and get information out to the public and let them make the decision," said Lunn, 44.

Being new on the job may be an advantage, he said.

"I have the same questions the public will have," he said. "Do we really need a referendum? If we do, what for? If I can't answer those questions for myself, then I'm not going to ask the public to do it. I'm coming in with a fresh set of eyes."

The Stillwater school board is expected to vote this month or next on whether to hold a fall referendum.

Daarel Burnette II• 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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