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Your Schools: Schools thrive with enthusiasm from community

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Enthusiasm:

1) Supernatural inspiration or possession; inspired prophetic or poetic ecstasy; 2) religious fanaticism; 3) intense or eager interest; zeal; fervor; 4) something arousing such interest or zeal.

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--Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary

Last week, a retiree with 40+ years in the school district stopped me in the drugstore to chat about my upcoming retirement. In the course of the conversation, she mentioned enthusiastically how much she appreciated my writing this column every other week in the Journal.

Of course, I thanked her and promised I'd keep the articles coming until I retire.

As I walked away, it suddenly dawned on me why so many residents in the past five years have taken the time to acknowledge my column and to encourage me to keep on writing.

It isn't the column itself, I decided.

I've written a similar column in three different newspapers over my past 25 years as a superintendent and never received such encouragement as I have from this River Falls community.

I think the reason that so many people have enthusiastically responded to my column here is because of the importance education plays in this community. What happens in our schools matters to many people in this school district, and there is a hunger and thirst to have someone tell the educational stories.

Perhaps the university influence helps grow the enthusiasm for education. Or, with so many professional people living and working here, including those who commute to the cities every day, perhaps the desire to learn more about our River Falls schools is manifested because readers know firsthand how important education is to the students and staff, as well as for the betterment of our community.

Either way, I have appreciated the encouragement and enthusiasm I receive for writing and will continue to do so, even if writing is somewhat of a painful process for me.

Enthusiasm is alive and well in the School District of River Falls and I see evidence of that every day!

Last week, I watched the Westside Elementary musical practice at the high school under the excellent leadership of director and Westside music teacher, Peggy Krasin.

The entire student body was assembled in the auditorium, each student or classroom waiting their turn to get on stage and belt out the songs from 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' or 'The Little Mermaid.'

Teachers, teacher aides, numerous moms and dads, former students, and even Peggy's husband, Jim Krasin, were on hand to help in making Peggy's 22nd musical production another grand success.

Talk about enthusiasm.

Peggy's "you-can't-say-no-to-me" enthusiasm for this effort even captured this writer into doing something I've never done even when I was in elementary school -- sing a whole song on stage, even if a little off key!

Enthusiasm is alive and well with the one-to-one technology initiative anticipated to be implemented starting in the 2013-14 school year.

Administrators and teachers have worked long and hard on this initiative, hoping to equip secondary students over the next three years with technology that will change learning for the 21st century by making it more personalized and tailor-made for each student.

Watch for more information on this after the school board takes action to determine if we move forward.

Enthusiasm abounds with two groups working on replacing two retiring administrators.

I lead a committee of 18 staff members, administrators, a board member, and parents in seeking candidates for the position of River Falls High School principal open as a result of Elaine Baumann's announced retirement.

The members of this committee are excited and determined to spend the time necessary reviewing credentials, reference-checking, and conducting interviews to find the best possible candidate to lead our students and staff at RFHS.

Likewise, the school board is working hard and enthusiastically to fill the role of school superintendent once I retire June 30.

Members of the board have already logged many hours in the process, which will no doubt include involvement from the community with various stakeholders serving on an advisory group to be sure the district hires someone who will continue the work of our strategic plan and move our district forward.

Enthusiasm abounds in such broad challenges as securing access to our school forest; building a partnership with UWRF, ZISU university in Hangzhou, China, and our elementary schools for 25-30 second-year Chinese college students in teacher training to study at UWRF and complete practicums in our elementary schools next fall; AdvancEd (formerly North Central Accreditation) for our district in fall of 2013; referendum-financed upgrades to happen this summer in Greenwood and Westside elementaries and Meyer Middle School; expansion of the elementary world language program; and virtual (on-line) learning opportunities for high school students, to name but a few.

Such "intense or eager interest, zeal, or fervor" on the part of our outstanding staff, school board, parents, and the community as a whole is one of the many characteristics of the School District of River Falls I will truly miss as I step back to allow for a younger person to take over the helm in steering our educational ship.

Whoever that may be, they will be blessed in many ways with the enthusiasm for education that shows up everywhere I go in this district.

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