Fairmont schools see administration changes

FAIRMONT– Fairmont Area Schools is reshuffling its principal positions ahead of next year. The elementary school’s current co-principals will each be assigned a particular area of specialization while at the high school current co-principal Chad Brusky will become the building’s chief principal.

“We’ve been very thoughtful (regarding) the structure that we are implementing for our administrative team moving forward and … our ultimate goal is to provide the best educational experience possible,” said Fairmont Superintendent Andy Traetow.

Currently the elementary school principals jointly administer all elementary age instruction but next year Michelle Rosen will become the principal for early childhood education through second grade while Brian Grensteiner will become the principal for grades 3-6. Each principal will also be assisted by their own social worker and dean of students. The elementary school’s current social workers will remain at the building along with current elementary school dean of students, Shawn Chambers. Long-time high school counselor, Scott Geerdes, will transfer to the elementary school next year as the second dean of students.

Traetow said the changes will simplify communication.

“Let’s say you have a third grade student who has a parent that has a need to collaborate with one of our building principals, under our current co-principal model more people were receiving that communication which required additional dialogue where this provides a more direct route to where that communication needs to go,” said Traetow.

Traetow also said the changes would improve the efficiency and efficacy of the elementary school’s administration. Each principal would need to supervise fewer staff members and would be working in an area that is better suited to their past experience.

Next year high school co-principal Alex Schmidt will return to classroom instruction and high school dean of students Andy Walden will become high school co-principal at Granada-Huntley- East Chain. In their absence current Director of Teaching, Learning and Student Support, Brooke Schultz, will fill a newly established associate principal position and Erin Elder, a former dean of students and current phy-ed teacher at Windom Area Schools, will become the new dean of students.

Traetow said different administrative needs are the reason why the elementary school principals are becoming more specialized while high school administration is becoming more centralized.

“As our kids get older you expect them to be more independent in their decision-making … as students enter their educational years we want to make sure a solid foundation is established,” said Traetow.

He said by assigning each principal to a particular area and enlarging their support staff it improves their ability to focus on their assigned area, while at the high school this level of support was not necessary.

Currently Schmidt manages the school’s 7th and 8th grade instruction as well as its vocational programs. Next year Brusky will manage the bulk of those areas directly with the assistance of Schultz. Schultz will maintain a focus on students transitioning into high school, assisting in areas such as orientation, registration assistance and social and emotional development.

The district has no plans to replace Schultz in her current role because it was funded specifically with COVID relief funds which are set to expire at the end of the next school year. While the district originally planned to have the position filled for another year, Traetow noted the position was always intended to be temporary and said it would be difficult to find a suitable replacement willing to work a one year contract. He said that while Schultz was on contract she helped implement standards based grading measures, improved academic support programs and was instrumental to starting a both tutoring program at the elementary school and summer school.

Erin Elder has previously worked as a classroom instructor in Fairmont before moving to Windom Area Schools. He was previously dean of students in that district but was transferred to classroom instruction after his position was eliminated.

“He’s excited to be a Fairmont Cardinal again and we’re excited to have him part of the team. It’s oftentimes rare to be able to hire a dean of students with experience in that area,” said Traetow.


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