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High school principals' school year preview

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A post-secondary technical program in the high schools and over ten new hires mean there will be a lot of new faces roaming Lake Superior School District hallways this year.

Jay Belcastro, a former teacher in the Proctor Public Schools, has filled the position of assistant principal at Two Harbors High School. Tuesday was his first day.

In May, Brett Archer, the current principal, requested permission to resume his former position as assistant principal. He was promoted to principal in 2010, but said he prefers working more closely with students. The assistant principal, or dean of students, typically has more direct interaction.

"I liked working with students. This job got me a little too far away from them," Archer said.

The board approved Archer's move, but then Phil Minkkinen's contract as superintendent wasn't renewed in June. Bill Crandall was hired as the interim superintendent by late July. Hiring a new principal was just too much administrative shuffle so the board and Archer decided he would remain in his position for some stability, Archer said.

The high school also hired a new special education teacher, Dean Holecek.

Between retirements and other employees moving on, William Kelley secondary and elementary schools hired an unusually high six new employees this year.

Pat Rendall from Grand Rapids took the dean of students position. Kris Peterson of Knife River was hired as a music teacher and Alan Harpson of Duluth will be a new English teacher. Kelly Fenstad, a WKHS grad who worked in Mora for the last six years will begin this fall as a science teacher. Lisa Malcolm, a Minnesota native who's moving back from Fairfax, Vir.,will teach art, and Lili Goettl from Minneapolis will teach special education.

"I'm looking forward to the new staff. With every person you have a new opportunity and they bring different ideas," WKHS/WKES principal Joe Nicklay said.

Minnehaha Elementary School also has picked up some new hires. Karen Bailey-Finstad will be working in special education, Nadine Uremovich was hired for a Title 1 part-time position and Greg Sumner will be the new occupational therapist. A new custodian and another kindergarten teacher will be hired within the next few days, according to Principal Pat Driscoll.

Post-secondary programs

THHS and WKHS will offer welding and millwright certification through Mesabi Range Community and Techncial College this fall. This was a new initiative intended to add more skilled workers to the work-force. Both programs were well received and have enrolled about 20 students.


Both Nicklay and Archer said they're hoping to get students more involved in club and extracurricular activities this year.

"We're working on school climate. I want us to be more of a community building," Archer said.

A number of teachers have come to him with ideas for new clubs to involve students and the community; though most are in the planning stage, he is hopeful that students will find a niche.

"We'd like to have all of our students involved in something," Nicklay said.

Students who need extra help paying for after-school activities or supplies should contact the district office or school administrators for possible confidential help.

"If a kid wants to play, we find a way," Nicklay said.

Four-day week evaluation

2012-13 is the third year of the four-day week that the district implemented as a cost-saving measure. The schools have to reapply at the end of the year if they want to maintain the structure, so administrators will be taking a close look at how it has affected student performance.

Schools had to make some adjustments with the four-day week, especially with athletes, according to Nicklay and Archer. With schooldays extended to 3:30 p.m., students often have to leave class early for away games.

The schools have adopted flip days, meaning seventh and eighth period will come first on some days so athletes aren't constantly missing the same classes.

Overall, students seem to be handling the transition to four-day weeks well, Archer and Nicklay said, but it has been a significant leap for teachers.

"Teachers are tired. It's squeeze everything into four days," Archer said.

When the district reapplies to continue with four-day weeks, it will need to present surveys and test scores, among other documentation, to prove the four-day week is working.

The district has scheduled open houses for teachers, administrators and families. The THHS open house will be Aug. 28, 5:30-7 p.m., the Minnehaha will hold its event Aug. 30 5:30-7 p.m., and the William Kelley Schools' will occur on Sept. 18, 5:30-7 p.m.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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