As they say in Hollywood, Brainerd School District Superintendent Jerry Walseth received great reviews.
Walseth gave the Brainerd School Board permission Monday to keep the meeting on his performance evaluation from July 1999 to July 2000 open. Districts have the right to close meetings to discuss employee evaluations. But a meeting shall remain open at the request of the individual who is the subject of a closed meeting under the Minnesota Open Meeting Law.
In the past year, Walseth met, or surpassed, performance requirements expected by the school board, according to the evaluation. Walseth succeeded former superintendent, Bob Gross, who resigned after 31 years in the district. He was named superintendent in 1981.
Board Chair Janet Moran directed the review and talked with all the principals in the district for comments. One principal described Walseth's transition as follows: "It was as if we were on a freeway and Bob Gross drove off on the exit ramp. We, the district, kept driving and went under the overpass and Jerry came off the entrance ramp and joined our cars as the leader. We never had to stop or even slow our speed."
He had large shoes to fill and he stepped in very well, reported one principal.
Lew Hudson, school board member, expressed his appreciation to Walseth and said he stepped into a complex situation.
"I have yet to hear a complaint against you," he said. "This is very unusual (meaning for a superintendent in general)."
One person reported that Walseth wants to make sure the district is the best it can be for the students and that he wants to continue the district's exceptional reputation in the state. Another said the superintendent sees the big picture and goes beyond the present frustrations.
Another principal reported that Walseth reads people well and makes them feel valued and supported.
"I'm on his ship wherever we go," said another.
"It's too competitive between elementary schools and I'd like to see more teamwork here," said one principal. "It's not Walseth's fault, we have never been a team and don't know how to be one. But he is aware of this and is helping us to change."
Walseth said he is thankful to be in this district. He said a successful district is one with a successful school board and its guidance and support is critical.
"The quality of leadership here is incredible, more than any district I've ever been at," he said. "And the internal focus is the kids and always has been the kids."
There also were a few negative comments received from administrators. One principal said the one-on-one communication was not always followed through on and feedback did not come in a timely fashion.
"Personally I do not feel part of the team," said one person. "The district is too large for every administrator to truly feel part of the team."
Hudson had one suggestion for Walseth.
"We need to know at the appropriate time, what is Jerry Walseth thinking?" he said.
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