By Jennifer Kotila
Three long-time staff with the Dassel-Cokato School District will be taking on new administrative roles this year, and all are looking forward to growing in their career with the district.
Students at Cokato Elemantary will be welcomed to school this year by Principal Brian Franklin, who was the middle school principal but transferred to the elementary school after former principal Sandi Arndt accepted a position with the Wayzata School Disitrict.
“I believe this new position is a great opportunity for me and others in the district,” Franklin said. “My wife, children, and I have been blessed to be a part of the DC School District and community for several years, and are fortunate we can call it our home.”
At the DC Middle School, former dean of students Alisa Johnson will be taking the reins as principal, and former Cokato second grade teacher Ryan Weinandt will move into the dean of students position.
Johnson noted that DCMS is a very special place. “Sometimes, middle school students get a bad rap for being a difficult age, but I very much enjoy adolescents,” she said. “My heart is in the DCMS, and I am thrilled to be able to continue the wonderful traditions we have here, and look forward to creating some new opprotunities, as well.”
Weinandt’s face will be familiar to middle school students who went to Cokato Elementary School; he looks forward to reconnecting with those students, as well as getting to know others.
“I feel very fortunate to be in this new position, and am extremely excited to get the school year started,” he said.
Johnson has been with the district for 20 years, 17 years teaching fifth grade and three years as the middle school dean of students.
Weinandt has been a second grade teacher at Cokato Elementary since 2004, and was interim principal for two months while retired principal Lorene Force was on a medical leave.
He has also been the head football coach for 11 years, the junior high wrestling coach for nine years, coached track for one year, and strength and conditioning for 11 years.
For the last five years, Weinandt has coordinated summer school at both Dassel and Cokato elementary schools.
Franklin spent 12 years teaching at the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District before accepting a position as the DC Middle School dean of students in 2007; he also took on the role of school assessment coordinator at that time.
He was hired as the DCMS principal in 2011, stepping into the role after Principal Gary Johnson retired.
“The transition was a good one, moving over an office; and, having been a part of the school for four years, I knew much of the position,” Franklin said of his transition to middle school principal.
As for his new position, “I feel I have a solid grasp of this stage of child development, brain-based learning, and the problem-solving capabilities of children, as I work with it each night when I get home to help my own children be successful at home and school,” he said.
Franklin has three children, two of whom are currently elementary-age, and his wife, Rachel, is a Dassel Elementary School teacher.
“I have learned, raising my own children, that working with younger students makes me simplify my interactions with them,” Franklin added.
In his new role as elementary school principal, Franklin is looking forward to watching and observing children who are beginning to learn.
“Children are often amazed by how much of their world surrounds them with learning opportunities and skills,” Franklin commented. “Our children come to us with such excitement and enthusiasm to continue to learn more and more.”
His hope is that he and the staff at Cokato Elementary pass the “dinner table” test that students will go home excited to tell their parents and siblings what they are learning each day.
In her new role as principal, Johnson is looking forward to observing students in their academic setting, she said.
“Focusing on student achievement, which has been a goal at the middle school through professional learning communities, will be one of my top priorities,” Johnson said. “I want students to take pride in their education, and the staff to take pride in their profession here at DCMS.”
As dean of students, Johnson had contact with students during lunch and recess, but was more involved in discipline throughout the day.
“Being able to see [students] in the role of ‘learner’ will be something I didn’t get the opportunity to do very often,” Johnson noted.
“DCMS has a very talented and hard-working staff, and I am excited to be out in their rooms to see them in action,” Johnson added. “My main goal is to foster relationships and to keep the lines of communication working. Staying connected to the students and their families, as well as the staff, is critical.”
Observing the teachers at the middle school is one of Johnson’s new responsibilities. It will be up to her to ensure new staff are performing well, and also evaluate all teachers on an established cycle.
Johnson will also have more responsibility in working with the budget and making sure the middle school is being managed efficiently.
She will continue to support the district’s professional learning communities and mentoring committees, but will no longer be directly involved with them as she has in the past.
Other things that will now be Johnson’s responsibility are supervising and attending school-related activities, and attending board meetings, Johnson added.
“I have had the opportunity to work for, and with, an amazingly talented group of administrators during the past years,” Johnson said. “So, I feel confident saying I learned from the best.”
Weinandt will probably see the most change in his role, moving from elementary school teacher to a middle school dean of students.
Although certain parts of his day will be routine, he will have a lot of variety in what he does and who he works with, he noted.
“I really enjoyed being a teacher and getting to know each of my students very well,” Weinandt said. “It will be a little more challenging in this role, because I will spend less time with each student.”
He added that his experience coaching and in other positions will help him in his role at the middle school.
Weinandt also noted his excitement to work with the middle school staff, and to learn from and work with the students, families, and staff to create a positive learning environment in which students feel safe and cared for.
He would like to help students experience the joys of learning, as well as being a part of a great community, he said.
As someone who moved into the district more recently, Franklin mirrored Johnson’s and Weinandt’s sentiments about the district.
“We continue to hear how much families who visit our schools and community have heard about our area, thus the reason for their visit,” he said. “We often see such families move into our area and schools, and become a part of DC. That speaks highly for our community and school district something we can all be proud of in the Dassel-Cokato communities.”