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Diane Moeller offered position of interim superintendent in Morris Area

Diane Moeller of St. Cloud has been offered the position of interim superintendent of the Morris Area School District for the 2014 - 2015 school year.

MORRIS – The Morris Area School Board has offered Diane Moeller, a former assistant superintendent with the St. Cloud School District, the position of interim superintendent for the 2014 – 2015 school year.

On Tuesday, the board also authorized the superintendent search committee –  Kurt Gartland, Robyn Van Eps, Dick Metzger and Doug Stahman – to enter contract negotiations with Moeller.

The committee interviewed three finalists for the position and met with an administrative contracting company on Friday, July 18. The committee unanimously recommended offering the position to Moeller.

“As we check references, we have not heard a negative about her, which is rather unusual,” said Gartland. “She brings a lot of good skills, both from the communication standpoint and the leadership standpoint.”

Moeller retired as assistant superintendent of the St. Cloud School District in May 2014 after 15 years in the district. Prior to her two years as assistant superintendent, Moeller was an elementary school principal in St. Cloud.

Moeller also has experience as an assistant professor and graduate instructor. In 2013 she was named Minnesota Math/Science Principal of the Year.

Stahman said Moeller stood out above the very strong pool of candidates and will do a great job in the district.  

“Once you get a chance to talk to her you’ll be amazed at the passion she has for the job,” Stahman told the board.

Board member Lory Lemke asked whether Moeller had the financial background to oversee the district budget as thoroughly as former superintendent Scott Monson.

Gartland said Moeller was familiar with the financial software the district uses and had experience overseeing schools in the St. Cloud district.

“Finding an interim superintendent to address all the areas that we have to focus on is difficult,” said Gartland.

Metzger praised Moeller’s experience in curriculum, evaluation and community engagement.  

“She really is excited to come and she really wanted to be here – she just has a passion and excitement that was really nice to see,” added Metzger.

Olweus program decreases bullying, meets legislative mandates

Two years after implementing a bullying prevention program, students in the Morris Area School District report that adults and other students are more likely to step in when they see bullying.

In the spring of 2012, the school board voted to implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Each spring, students complete a survey about the program, giving the district three years of data to consider, explained Morris Area Elementary School Ken Gagner.

In the spring of 2012, before the program began, 39 percent of student said teachers or other adults “often or almost always” step in when a student is being bullied. That percentage grew to 49 percent in spring 2013 and stayed at 48 percent in 2014.

Fewer students step into help other students, but that number is growing too. Twenty percent of students said their peers will often or almost always step in in 2013. That number grew to 22 percent in 2013 and 25 percent in 2014.

“It’s really hard to ever have enough adults to watch every place, every time – the kids need to step up for each other,” said Gagner. “They want to be on board, they need to feel empowered.”

The surveys show that fewer students say they have bullied others, increasing from 56 percent in 2012 to 77 percent in 2014. Fewer students are afraid of being bullied. Sixty-two percent reported never or seldom being afraid in 2012. That number grew to 70 percent in 2014.

The program will also help the district meet new requirements for anti-bullying programs implemented by the state of Minnesota, Gagner said.

This spring, the state of Minnesota passed the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, a law that creates a new set of rules for Minnesota schools to follow in order to protect students from bullying.

The existing Olweus programming has helped the district meet the requirements of the new law, Gagner said.

Under the Safe and Supportive School Act, districts need to adopt an anti-bullying policy; offer training on to students, staff and volunteers; and investigate all potential bullying incidents.

Gagner said training for volunteers is a weaker area for the district, but there are plans to develop an online training volunteers can complete while filling out other forms.

“What the state mandated is something we have in place – I don’t know if there’s anything really new that we have to do,” said Gagner. “We’re sitting pretty good.”

Other business

  • The board approved hiring Andrea Winkels as a part-time project coordinator, a position funded through a grant with the Otto Bremer Foundation. Winkels, who has also been hired as a part-time counselor, will strengthen the Olweus program, grow the Student Leaders program and create a program to support and teach students during summer break.
  • The board approved hiring Michael Schuldt of Mankato as a part-time music teacher.
  • The board accepted bids from Pan-O-Gold Baking Company for baked goods for 2014 – 2015 and a bit from Cass Clay for dairy products for 2014 – 2015.