Since we came to the school district in 2002, I have had the opportunity to communicate with the ROCORI School District community through the space provided by the Cold Spring Record.  It has been, and continues to be, a tremendous privilege to be able to share thoughts and issues in this format. 

With the completion of this week’s article, I plan to take a short break from the writing process, but should be back in August.  As I have each of the past 14 years, I want to wrap up the 2016-2017 year with some final notes of thanks!



Throughout this past school year—and the previous fourteen years—the Cold Spring Record has opened space in the paper to allow me to share thoughts and ideas related to the school district.  The Record has been very gracious in providing space to accommodate the notes each week.  I very much appreciate this means of communication with the ROCORI School District.

The Record does not need to offer space for these writings, but Mike Austreng and the staff have been very receptive to the idea.  They never really know how much they will get or what topic will be covered.  They never really know when they will get the article either.  But they always work with whatever they get!!  Thank you for the space, the freedom to write, and the flexibility to accommodate the information!



The district mission statement says that in ROCORI we are “making a difference today, to create a better tomorrow.”   Our vision statement includes a commitment “to be Central Minnesota’s public education standard of excellence”.  These statements are a very appropriate description of our district and our activities.  These were very evident in the school year we just completed. 

The 2016-17 school year, as we reviewed at the end of the year gathering with staff, witnessed significant growth and progress in both parts of our mission statement.  Our academic work has shaped our core curriculum to reach our students. The academic work is helping the ROCORI School District set the standard for performance in Central Minnesota. 

We have many talented people working hard every day to make a difference in the lives of others.  The ROCORI School District possesses a very professional staff in all areas of assignment from administrative to teaching to support positions. It is truly a pleasure and privilege to work with a staff that is talented, dedicated, and effective. 

I want to say thank you to our entire staff for the professionalism and commitment to excellence.  Each member of the staff does, indeed, make a difference today and those efforts will create a better tomorrow.



It continues to be a great privilege to work with the administrative team in the ROCORI Schools.  These administrators lead the individual buildings or programs.  We have a very seasoned and experienced team of quality individuals who care about the work they do, the people with whom they work, and the success of the teams around them!

Our building principals include Eric Skanson (Cold Spring Elementary School Principal), Shelly Muth (John Clark Elementary Principal and Richmond Elementary Principal), and Mark Jenson (ROCORI Secondary School Principal.  Nate Guetter very capably filled the role of RHS Assistant Principal.  Jake Nelson has effectively served as the ROCORI Middle School Assistant Principal.

We witnessed a great deal of change throughout the year.  Ken Kraemer (Buildings and Grounds Director), retired in November and then returned to assist with two transitions—to Aaron Pilarski who was with us from November to March, and Brent Neisinger who is our newest Buildings and Grounds Director since May!

Joel Baumgarten (Activity Director), Beth Bertram (Director of Business Services), Brian Michalski (Technology), Stephanie Hillman (Community Education), and Penny Hoops (Food Service, shared through Albany) make up the other members of our administrative team.  Stephanie was new to ROCORI on September 1.

Each of these positions are very important leadership roles in the district.  Our success in the organization of the district, the activity programs, and the academic work across our curriculum would not be possible without the efforts of these administrative team members.

I believe we have a very positive, insightful, and effective administrative core.  Each member of the team works long hours, many days, and brings special qualities to the district.  Thanks to each of you for your contributions.



As one would expect, our building principals offer a great deal of academic leadership in the district.  This year, we also saw leadership from many different areas.  Stef Rothstein and Matthew Zurbriggen formed a strong duo of instructional coaches—to assist staff members with professional growth, instructional approaches and in strengthening the classroom. 

The Curriculum Department witnessed a number of adjustments with changes in the Department.  Kayla Youngblom (Administrative Assistant), Jen Lessinger, Jake Zauhar, Malea Bergeson, and Patricia Ayala all picked up important roles and duties with midyear personnel changes.  Stef Rothstein, Matthew Zurbriggen and Jen Illies-Sabol added academic leadership roles in the middle of the year.  The Title, ADSIS, and other teams also assumed additional responsibilities.  All of these staff members helped move us through some challenging situations!



Another note of thanks is extended to the district office staff for their excellent work during the 2016-2017 school year.  All of the members of the district office staff have done an excellent job in completing responsibilities and handling our duties throughout the year. 

Barb Fuchs serves as Executive Assistant and works directly with me, the demands of my schedule and position, and the responsibilities of the School Board.  Mary Rothstein is a Bookkeeper who works with purchasing, bill payments and processing of business records.  Jeanne Viere works with a variety of business services including reporting, maintaining complete records, and verification of information.  Stacy Kortenbusch works primarily with issues of personnel and payroll on a daily basis to be sure that employee records are complete and accurate.

Beth Bertram, Brian Michalski and, now, Brent Neisinger are also involved, as administrators, in the daily operations of the District Office.  Their talent and leadership help us to move forward as a district.

The duties, tasks and responsibilities accomplished in the district office are complex.  Yet, the work is consistently done at the highest possible level.   It has been a professional pleasure for me to work in a district office that is as effective and efficient as the staff at ROCORI.  Thank you, to each of you, for your dedication, commitment, and performance.



Although I have taken time at other points of the year to talk about the work of the School Board, many people do not understand the time, energy, and commitment required to be an effective School Board—and effective individual school board members!  This year, with an election in the fall and new board members installed in January, offered opportunity to work with the single largest number of board members I have experienced.  We have had, during the course of the year, nine people fill the six spots on the board!

Board members Kara Habben, Lynn Schurman, Lisa Demuth, Jason Wesenberg, Shannon Humbert and Sunny Hesse have all dedicated considerable amounts of time and effort to their roles.  Mike Austreng, Nadine Schnettler and Richard Bohannon—whose terms of service ended in 2016—also fulfilled their commitments with passion and dedication.  I appreciate the work, contributions, and perspective of each member!  Thank you for your service to the students and families of ROCORI.



Finally, I need to take time to thank my wife, Julie, and our children for their support.  Although our family activities continue to change with each stage of life, it means a great deal to me to have the support from each member of our family. 

My family continues to be an incredible source of encouragement, strength, hope, and support.  Each member of my family has been very supportive of my role in the district.  Their support allows me to fill my duties as a servant of the district and to extend help to others whenever possible. 

There are often long days in the position of superintendent.  Attendance at meetings, involvement in school or community events, and many of the responsibilities of the position impose upon our personal or family time.  There is often additional time required even when I am at home.  My family has accepted that my position has unique demands. 

To my family, my hope is that I can be a model of professionalism and commitment for each of you.  Your love and respect mean more to me than you will ever know.  I love each of you with all my heart and appreciate all the support you offer!