Denise Pontrelli, an administrator with the Spring Lake Park Schools, has been tapped to be the next superintendent of the Stillwater Area Public Schools.

The school board voted unanimously to begin negotiating a contract with Pontrelli in hopes of approving a deal on March 26.

“Everyone we spoke to had exceptional things to say about Ms. Pontrelli,” Board Chairman Tom Lehmann said in a March 5 statement. “She is a proven instructional leader who is focused on improving learning opportunities for students.”

Pontrelli now serves as executive director of educational services for the north metro district, which serves about 5,600 students from Blaine, Spring Lake Park and Fridley, and has an unusual grade configuration that starts with two grade K-3 elementary schools and a grade K-4 Spanish immersion school.

The Stillwater district has about 8,225 students, and soon could see structural changes to its schools.

On May 12, voters will decide whether to reconfigure grade levels to include grade K-5 elementary schools, grade 6-8 middle schools and a grade 9-12 high school. Each of the elementary schools also would have a preschool classroom under the proposal, which is headed to voters in the form of a $97.5 million bond request.

Pontrelli was among four finalists for Stillwater’s top job. She is to replace Tom Nelson, who is in his second stint as the district’s interim superintendent under a one-year contract that ends on June 30.

St. Paul Park

Middle school named AVID model

Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park has succeeded in its quest to be a national model for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college-readiness program tailored to students who traditionally are underrepresented in higher education.

The South Washington County School District said the school is one of about 140 named a “national demonstration school.”

“The use of AVID strategies throughout our school has positively impacted students and staff, and we continue to see a more engaged and college-ready student body,” Principal Becky Schroeder said in a news release.

As a demonstration school, Oltman will play host to other schools preparing to implement the AVID system.

South Washington County offers the elective class as a way to prepare students for rigorous high school courses that will put them on a path to college. The students are described as being in the “academic middle” — capable of doing challenging work but falling short of their potential, officials say.

District 833

Board member exits; soon Arizona-bound

Laurie Johnson, now in her sixth year as a South Washington County school board member, announced on March 5 that she was stepping down to move to Arizona.

Waiting for her there is her husband, who decided last year he could no longer tolerate winter in Minnesota.

“He moved and I’ve been staying here with just a portion of our goods,” Johnson said during a board meeting. Said Chairman Ron Kath, “We will certainly miss you, for sure.”

Johnson, first elected to a four-year term in 2009, was re-elected in 2013 to a two-year term ending in January 2016. The seat will be up for election in November.

The district said that the board is expected on March 26 to discuss how to fill the seat.

Johnson said that she did not know whether the March 5 meeting would be her last.

“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to serve this community — and to raise my kids here,” she said.

Anthony Lonetree