Well, what a year! Congratulations, everyone, for making it to the finish line! We have all been challenged professionally like never before, and we should all take a moment to catch our breath and reflect on all that has been accomplished. Although it has continued to be a year filled with the unexpected, our students, families, and staff have persevered and succeeded in a great many ways in each of our districts.
Across the state, students and staff members have continued their strong focus on learning, employing the flexibility to do so regardless of the learning model. In White Bear Lake Area Schools, beginning the 2020-21 school year in a hybrid format, with some choosing distance learning, students and teachers got used to these new experiences while learning and making connections in new ways. When subsequent switches to the learning model occurred, our students, staff, and families pivoted to adjust to the environment and make the most of the situation. The agency, creativity, and perseverance shown by our students has been remarkable and is certainly worth celebrating.
For all of us, we continued moving forward in spite of the pandemic. In White Bear, some of the most visible examples were the many construction projects that broke ground throughout this year. The projects, approved by district residents in our historic 2019 Bond Referendum, represent the first phase of a Building Our Future Facilities Process construction plan that will be completed following the 2024-25 school year. Those who wish to follow White Bear Lake Area School’s building journey are invited to do so at isd624.org/BuildingOurFuture.
Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from this past year has been that it seems, perhaps now more than ever, easy for people to live in echo chambers. This is true in all matters we have found ourselves this year – masks, distance learning, pursuing “everyday” initiatives, equity. It was my experience, and I would venture to guess it was yours as well, that there is truth (usually) in the many conflicting opinions that have been shared – and often times someone’s truth I hear right now negates the truth I heard just five minutes ago. What I have come to realize is that we all want what is best for kids, although the paths suggested for getting there often look different. It makes it even more important in our roles to help facilitate conversations that help people come together and find common ground.
I am thankful for so much this year, most importantly that my family and I remained healthy. I’m also thankful for getting to know many of you better than I ever would have if not for the pandemic. While it will be nice when many of the additional To Do items of this unusual year are put to rest, I hope we continue working closely and collectively even after we’ve weathered this storm. The thoughtfulness and wisdom that has been displayed by so many of you has been impressive, and I thank you all for your courage to lead.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent all of you as Minnesota’s 2021 Superintendent of the Year. It is an honor that carries with it a great responsibility, and I commit to you that I will continue to do my best to live up to the high standard set by all of you, the amazing leaders who are thriving in crisis and who are seizing upon the possibilities before us.
Dr. Wayne A. Kazmierczak
White Bear Lake Area Schools