The superintendent of the Red Rock Central school district remains hospitalized in the Twin Cities area this week following a recent traffic accident that has left him in critical condition.

Bruce Olson sustained a serious spinal cord injury, his family reported on the CaringBridge website.

Back home in the district, which serves four communities in southwestern Minnesota, a teacher stepped up last week to deliver the commencement address in Olson's absence.

"The faith of our communities is strong and there is power in prayer," Ron Kelsey, the school board's vice chairman, said Wednesday.

On May 17 about 10:45 a.m., Olson was a passenger in a minivan that was struck by a vehicle that ran a stop sign near Sanborn, Minn., the State Patrol said. He was taken to North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale and still was in its intensive care unit on Tuesday, the family said.

Since the accident, Red Rock Central students have sent cards, and "he smiled and even chuckled" when some were read, a CaringBridge post said.

This year, Red Rock Central's grades 5-12 secondary school received a National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education as an exemplary, high-performing school. Much of the credit for it goes to Olson and Principal Phil Goetstouwers, Kelsey said.

Olson, a former high school wrestling coach, also is respected by the community's athletic leaders. After the accident, the Red Rock Central athletic department praised him on Twitter as a mentor, leader, fighter and friend.

"We are with you, Bruce," the tweet read. "You are THE MAN!"

Kelsey, who taught agriculture at Red Rock Central and other local school systems for 35 years, said Olson is "one of the best superintendents we've ever had."

He knew Olson first as a social studies teacher. Olson then became a principal before he left the profession for a few years to devote more time to his construction business. Five years ago, Olson returned to take the job of Red Rock Central superintendent and elementary principal, Kelsey said.

Throughout his tenure, he's had an open-door policy with families, Kelsey added, and maintained his handyman status, too, sometimes taking on projects at school during the summer.

His family wrote that the injury will bring about a significant change in his life.

Red Rock Central students wrap up the school year on Thursday.