Truman hires new superintendent

TRUMAN — Truman Public School will have a new superintendent next school year.

Current Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom will work through June 30,w when Lisa Shellum will take over.

Dahlstrom began her stint as superintendent at Truman in the 2015-2016 school year. She actually came out of retirement to take the job.

“Truman provided me the opportunity to work and it’s been a part-time job since I live quite a bit away,” said Dahlstrom, who lives in Mankato.

When she began as superintendent in Truman, the school board wanted her to help pass a referendum. In three years, two referendums have passed.

“I knew taking the job that Truman schools needed help financially and the board wanted to look at revenue streams in order to help,” Dahlstrom said.

In addition to the two referendums, Dahlstrom helped the district secure voluntary pre-K funding and additional early childhood dollars.

Dahlstrom has been working with Shellum regularly and said, “It will be a smooth transition.”

Shellum will be a combination superintendent/interventionist. She began working at Truman during the 2016-2017 school year as a long-term substitute. She was asked to stay in order to start the School Within a School program, which includes both academic and behavioral interventions.

Shellum grew up in and lives in St. James. She has been in the education field since 1988. She taught at St. James for several year before moving on to Butterfield-Odin, where she held several positions including principal and superintendent. Shellum also teaches master’s courses to teachers through St. Mary’s. Recently, she began teaching at South Central College two nights per week.

“I’m excited to be here,” she said. “Small schools have a huge and important role in our society.”

Shellum helped get the School Within a School program started in January and it has been expanding fast.

“It’s for kids who have been struggling with being in a mainstream classroom,” she said. “Everyone has different ways of learning, so we give them an alternative path to learning. They’re getting all of their required classes in a different way that works for them.”

Students are referred by either a parent or a teacher.

“That’s one end of the spectrum; the other thing I’m working on is kids on the other side who need more of an academic challenge,” Shellum noted.

“There’s a different feel among the kids and I’ve felt it,” noted teacher Tina Raske. “There’s more options now for kids to be successful and when kids are more successful, they feel better about themselves and they treat others more respectfully and we get that back from the kids. That changes the atmosphere within the staff as well. When behaviors improve with the kids, it improves with the teachers and staff too.”

In addition to getting some new programs started for students, Shellum is interested in starting some groups for families.

On Wednesday, there will be a “meet and greet” for parents who are looking for some support. Everyone is invited to meet in the high school board room from 5:30-6:45 p.m. to share parenting tips, successes and struggles.

“So many parents feel isolated and alone,” she said. “Teachers are supported by each other during the school day. Parents are home alone.”

The school’s social worker, Deb Schneider, and the SWIS room teacher, Laurie Sherman, will be at the meet and greet as well. Shellum said that if the idea takes off, they will plan some support events throughout the year.

“We are a team, and the team includes us (at the school) and the community,” she said. “The community needs the school and the school needs the community. Right now, we have some financial issues but I really believe that together in the next few years we can solve them and see a whole new positive environment.”

To help celebrate the new changes that have taken place, a community night is being planned. The event will take place 5-8 p.m. May 2. There will be a free meal, book fair, art show, petting zoo, bingo, talent show and bean bag toss. The elementary and high school spring concerts will take place from 7-8 p.m.