As Marshall Public Schools transitions from one superintendent to another, it makes sense to take the opportunity to reflect on the district's past as well as look toward the future.
Outgoing Superintendent Klint Willert served MPS and the community for the last 10 years, which is considered a long tenure for a superintendent. Having been raised in rural Verdi, Willert said he appreciated being able to put down roots near his hometown while fulfilling his professional aspirations.
Marshall Public Schools custodian Lonnie Mercie, left, was among the many well-wishers who attended outgoing Superintendent Klint Willert's farewell celebration Tuesday at the Marshall Area YMCA.
"I can't say enough about how Marshall has really rallied behind the school and allowed me to be a leader," Willert said. "It's been very good."
As is the case with any educator, Willert feels strongly about the importance of a good education. Marshall School Board Chairman Jeff Chapman knows that first-hand, having developed a working relationship with Willert the past decade.
"I was on the board when we hired Klint," Chapman said. "He's helped the board be more credible and have more character. He's brought the standards up high for our board and the school system. I have nothing except praise for Klint. He's done a tremendously-great job for us and for the community. And his biggest asset is that he's always focused on the kids. We set that as our goal and that's the way it's always been since he's been here."
Chapman pointed out that superintendents make easy targets for critics, oftentimes ones who readily hand out complaints but offer few solutions. He said he appreciates the professional way that Willert handled difficult situations.
"It's a very tough job, to keep everybody happy and focused on the same mission," Chapman said. "Emotions are always high. But he knew how to settle everybody down, get to the root issues and figure them out. He's a very positive person, and it's a blessing that we've had him in the district, to keep things stable, for as long as we have."
Willert said he hadn't planned on leaving the Marshall School District but had to consider the possibility when the Brainerd School District contacted him with a job offer.
"They contacted me with the opportunity," Willert said. "It was something that I really hadn't anticipated. Six months ago, I would never have guessed this is where I was headed. But I feel really blessed that I was sought out and considered for the position. It's been a real treat that I've had the opportunities that I've had here in Marshall that have really contributed to where we're at today and where I'm going in the future with Brainerd."
The outpouring of support from the Marshall community mirrors what Willert and his family ? wife April, son Kesmond and daughter Kestlyn ? have felt from the people in the Brainerd area.
"People have been very welcoming and invitational, so that's been very good as well," Willert said. "So we're only going to gain more positive relationships."
During an open house farewell celebration Tuesday, Willert took time to thank fellow educators, friends and community members for their support.
"I look at what we've accomplished and the relationships that we've built," he said. We wouldn't have the nice, new track and field facility that we're getting if we didn't have great relationships built. We wouldn't have many of the other wonderful things that we have in terms of programming with the university (Southwest Minnesota State University) and the things we've done in relationship with the community, community education and the city of Marshall."
The list could go on and on, Willert said, reflecting on the early days of his tenure when construction of the new Marshall High School building was taking place to the recent approval of renovations for Marshall Middle School. He pointed out that the accomplishments were because of the efforts of many.
"As I'm leaving, the district is starting a new era of a 10- or 15-year long-range facility plan as well," Willert said. "Having been part of those things has been really exciting for me. And it's because I've been blessed with such an amazing team."
Chapman said the same about Willert, noting that the outgoing superintendent was good with people, was always professional and had the students' best interest at heart all of the time.
"He was here through the changing of the curriculum and the referendums in town," Chapman said. "He would take issues that were controversial, dissect them and figure out what was wrong. And he did that in a transparent way. We've come a long way and part of that is because of the administration."
Chapman, who has served on the board for 14 years, wholeheartedly believes that public education is the future of the entire nation. He credits the Marshall community for supporting that education.
"Marshall has always supported public education," he said. "They've always supported the children. They've always kept their priorities in the right place. That's why I've stayed here. It's a great community. I'll put up with those lousy winters just because this is a good community with a good education system."
Chapman believes one can tell a lot about a community by the way it treats the very young and very old occupants.
"You can always judge a community by that, and Marshall takes care of both ends," Chapman said. "Marshall has its priorities right."
As Willert's era ends, officially on June 30, a new one gets set to begin with incoming Superintendent Scott Monson. Last week, the Marshall School Board approved the hiring of Monson, who has served as superintendent at Morris Public Schools for the past 10 years.
"Klint set the bar pretty high, but that's OK," Chapman said. "It's like the Olympics, we'll keep going higher every year. It'll be good. Scott has been in Morris for 10 years, but he's also taught at Pipestone a long time ago in his career. He was also in Fulda, so he knows the area. He's excited to come here. He loves the area and the challenges that area ahead. I think he's going to be a great asset."
Implementing and staying up to date with technology is one of the current challenges within the Marshall School District, as is maintaining a stable budget while offering as many quality programs and opportunities to students as possible.
Monson beat out 13 other applicants for the position, having been interviewed and endorsed by four different search committees that were made up of school board members, school administrators, school personnel and community members.
"We have a great guy coming in," Chapman said. "I think Scott will do a great job. He really likes our system. He really likes our programs that we have going. And he seems like he's going to bond well with the rest of the administration, the teachers, the board and the community. He's excited. So we'll keep moving forward."