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The district’s future
Dietz joins the district amid an enrollment slide. Enrollment topped out at 7,000 in 2003 before dropping to 6,400 this past school year. The district is now undertaking an enrollment and facilities study for its five elementary schools, middle school and high school.
The facilities study goes hand-in-hand with strategic planning that will help define the district’s goals and chart a future course. Waseca Schools underwent a strategic planning process under Dietz’s leadership.
“It lets you know as a taxpayer we are thinking ahead about who we are and more importantly, where we want to go,” Dietz said.
The district held off hiring a permanent principal at Blue Heron Elementary, instead appointing an interim person. That triggered concerns about possible future school closings, but Dietz said no decisions have been made.
“There are ton of options right now,” Dietz said. “We have to let the process play itself out, which will take through November. Sometime before the new year, we will have an opportunity to say, ‘Here’s a list of recommendations.’ ”
It’s about planning for the district’s future with a smaller number of students vs. reacting after that happens, he said. “It’s getting ahead of a problem, but more importantly, being really transparent and honest and saying, ‘We want to have these conversations,’ ” Dietz said.
In Waseca, Dietz oversaw the merging of the middle school with the high school. That actually improved course offerings for middle school students, he said. Before the merger, some middle school students were sitting in two study halls a day because of lack of course offerings, he said.
It isn’t just about examining the numbers.
Dietz hopes to build on programs that improve student performance, as well as to add new ones.
One program Dietz has already brought to Centennial Schools is called AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination. It’s a national college readiness system that targets middle-performing kids. It’s a partnership with Minnesota State Mankato that will start in 2014-15.
Dietz said he supports integrating more technology into the classroom experience, but that it has to be strategic. Centennial now has about 1,000 iPads, as well as thousands of computers.
“It can’t just be a tool. It has to be more transformational as well,” Dietz said.
That means taking a “researched approach” to adding technology and making sure teachers are well-trained and have a plan for new classroom technology, he said.
“It still comes down to what makes a student successful is the teacher in front of the classroom,” Dietz said. “That’s the one factor every piece of research agrees upon.”
Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804