New superintendent talks about his plans and hopes for the school district.
After 14 years with South Washington County Schools, Dave Bernhardson will start fresh on July 1, when he begins as superintendent of the Inver Grove Heights district.
Bernhardson will succeed Deirdre Wells, who has been superintendent for nine years.
We talked with Bernhardson, a father of three, about his plans for the district and his strengths as a leader. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What initially made you interested in education?
A: I was a business major for three years in college and there was something missing. And that “something missing” was something my parents had ingrained in me. It was serving kids, basically public service, and helping to support kids in their quest to be great adults. And thus I made the switch over to education.
Q: What made you apply for the Inver Grove Heights superintendent position?
A: It had to do with some knowledge of the system, and really having what I felt was a grasp of the potential that Inver Grove Heights has for its students and its communities. You see and feel that the potential is limitless right now. The intimacy of size (the district has 3,700 students) is also a draw, because of the connections and the relationships you can establish with staff and the community.
Q: Why do you believe you were chosen for the job?
A: They had a very prescriptive profile that had been developed and the significant aspects of that profile really had to do with forming relationships, with kids, staff, parents and the community. And that’s always been a strength of mine and something that comes very naturally to me.
Q: What kind of vision do you have for the district’s future?
A: I’m working on an entry plan, which is really rooted in first spending time listening to individuals and groups to see what they feel are our strengths and challenges moving forward. From what I’ve gathered, that direction is leading toward even greater individualization for student learning.
Q: What do you mean by individualized learning? What does that look like?
A: I think some of that can be best modeled in the classroom. There’s three different types of instruction that take place — there’s large group instruction, small group instruction and individualized instruction.