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Willmar board rehires recently retired principal, discusses new evaluations: New evaluations

WILLMAR -- Willmar Senior High Principal Rob Anderson was 20 days into retirement when his old boss called in mid-July.

When he wasn't pleased with the applications he received for Anderson's old job, Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard called Anderson to ask him to come back for one more year.

The Willmar School Board approved a re-employment agreement for Anderson at its Monday meeting.

Kjergaard told the board he felt the applicants lacked the experience needed to oversee a racially diverse high school of more than 1,200 students.

"My best choice was the person who had just retired," he said. "He's a very strong principal with the respect of the staff and students and parents."

Anderson's expertise will also be important as the district develops a new evaluation method for teachers and principals, Kjergaard said. The evaluation process is required by legislation approved by the Legislature in the July special session.

Anderson said he and his family discussed retirement in June. He has been eligible to retire for several years. He put in his paperwork the day after Father's Day.

After Kjergaard asked him to come back for one more year, he said, he talked it over with his wife, Linda. Since she had not officially retired yet, he said, they decided they'd both work another year.

"We can help out for one more school year and both be done together," he said.

Kjergaard said the short-term re-employment agreement Anderson signed will save the district $18,000 to $20,000.

The contract will expire at the end of June 2012. Anderson said he has given up his seniority and tenure rights with the district.

"In my last year, I will try to provide the best leadership I possibly can," he said. "I'm looking forward to having a wonderful year."

The discussion about rehiring Anderson at the board meeting led to talk of the new evaluation system.

Kjergaard and board members talked about the need for experienced administrators to develop and implement a new evaluation process.

The new law requires that all teachers must be evaluated at least once a year, and student test scores will be factored into evaluations.

Probationary teachers will be evaluated three times a year, including once in the first 90 days of employment.

Districts have two years to develop a new evaluation system to fit the state's requirements or to follow a state system, which hasn't been developed yet. Once the system is in place, administrators will have to be trained in how to use it and report their findings, he said.

The board recently asked Kjergaard to conduct an audit of the district's administrative strategy. He said the new evaluation requirements could affect that.

"Evaluations will be more intensive and take more time," Kjergaard said.

Principals are already evaluating the more than 300 teachers in the district, Kjergaard said. "They have never complained about the evaluations they do, because that's their job; it's part of their professional responsibility."

The superintendent's association has estimated that implementing the law could cost about $80 million across the state, he said. In fact, some school districts may have to add administrators to meet the law's requirements.

"Do I think this will end up making education better? That's my hope," Kjergaard said. "Nobody knows."

Board Chairman Wayne Lenzmeier asked if the law provides funding for the increased workload. It doesn't.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't be evaluating our people; we should," he said. "But it is going to be another unfunded mandate."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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