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Familiar faces will greet middle schoolers Sept. 6
AUG. 29, 2011
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Dassel-Cokato Middle School to start year with new administration

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL-COKATO, MN – A new principal and dean of students will lead the students and staff as another year of learning begins at Dassel-Cokato Middle School.

Familiar faces within the school (to all but the incoming fifth graders and new teachers), Brian Franklin and Alisa Johnson are looking forward to getting their feet wet in their new roles.

Franklin, who was hired at DC in 2007 as dean of students, has been chosen to lead the middle school as principal in the wake of Gary Johnson’s retirement last spring.

Superintendent Jeff Powers said that Franklin went through an extensive interview process with a number of other applicants, and his experience as both a teacher and dean of students has prepared him well to take on this position.

“He possesses an excellent knowledge base, great character traits, and the energy necessary to be highly successful in his new position,” Powers said.

Franklin came from Glencoe-Silver Lake School District, where he started his teaching career and spent 12 years as a sixth grade teacher of math, science, and social studies.

With his wife, Rachel, working in the DC district at Cokato Elementary, Franklin liked the culture and atmosphere he saw.

“It was second to none as far as schools around the area, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Franklin said, explaining that everyone is involved in education here. “It goes with the concept that it takes a village to raise a child.”

He chose to become a dean of students in an effort to make a greater impact on the entire school population.

Now, Franklin will start the year as the new principal of the middle school.

“I’m looking forward to the change. I’m very excited about this year,” Franklin said.

In particular, Franklin is looking forward to the middle school implementing a district-wide program in an effort to increase student achievement.

Through Professional Learning Communities, staff will work together to improve student achievement.

To do this, staff will look at different learning avenues and styles and isolate what best fits for each student, Franklin explained.

Having also applied for other administrative positions, Franklin chose to remain in the Dassel-Cokato School District because of the community-wide support.

“This is a family around here,” he said. “The support is unbelievable.”

Franklin told of the support he and Rachel received after her father was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008, and after he passed away.

“Without the support [in the district and DC community] it would’ve been real tough,” he said.

With the new school year upon us, Franklin is looking forward to having the halls bustling again.

“I’m excited to get the kids back in here,” he said, noting how quiet the school has been without them.

As the new principal, Franklin’s goal is to “do whatever I can to help everyone in my building succeed – teachers, support staff, and students – and succeed at a high level.”

With Johnson being one of four interviewed for the dean of students position (roughly 10-15 applied), her previous experience in the district was undoubtedly an asset.

This being her 18th year in the DC School District, Johnson spent 17 years teaching fifth grade – communications, science, and math – all in the same classroom. Brian Bessingpass, who taught sixth grade, will take her place in fifth grade this year.

“I think I’ll miss the classroom, but I’m excited about a new opportunity,” Johnson said.

With a love for learning, Johnson didn’t stop when she received her k-6 teaching license. She went back later to get a middle school license for grades 5-8, which focused on adolescents.

Then, 12 years ago, Johnson went back to school for a master’s degree in education from St. Mary’s University.

For Johnson, it wasn’t about getting out of the classroom. It was about taking on a new role and responsibility “and to share my skills in a different way and break out on a new journey, so-to-speak.”

The Dassel-Cokato School District, and the middle school particularly, is where her heart is. She has also had 24/7 experience raising kids, as she and her husband, Eric, have three children, Matthew, who is a freshman; Alayna, who is in seventh grade; and 4-year-old Ella.

Though she is going to miss the day-to-day interaction with her students and seeing the progress they make, Johnson will now work with more than 700 kids, instead of 25.

“Brian Franklin did a great job in this position – I have big shoes to fill,” Johnson said, adding that she hopes to be a resource for families and a quality colleague on the staff.

The majority of Johnson’s position will be with discipline and behavioral issues, as well as safety. She will also be involved with the mentoring program for new teachers and student council.

Like Franklin, she is also excited to be involved in Professional Learning Communities and working to improve student achievement at the middle school.

Knowing that adolescence can be a tough time for kids, Johnson will take a teamwork approach for students by working with staff, students, and families “to develop a plan that will allow students to be as successful as they can be.”

With the first day of school approaching, “I’m really excited,” Johnson said. “It’s like [how I felt] my first year in a classroom.”

See Monday's paper edition for an introduction of the new teachers in the district.

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