Stifter has new mantra: ‘We are ISD 1’


New Superintendent Dan Stifter joined Aitkin Schools on July 1 with a new mantra, “We are ISD 1.” Along with focusing on maintenance projects, high school renovations and fulfilling staffing needs, Stifter said he will also be working toward repairing the “separate silo” culture of the district.

Contributing to the challenges has been the turnover in the leadership role of superintendent in years past. According to Stifter, the staff and the community of the district are seeking direction. “Who are we? What are we doing, and why are we doing it?” Stifter asked.

By beginning the strategic planning process, Stifter hopes to create a brand that represents unity with a sense of community and school pride. “We are ISD 1, whether you’re a high schooler or a kindergartener, teacher or staff. We are one,” he said.

What Stifter is most looking forward to is getting staff and students back into the building. “It is a hollow building without people in place,” he said. “There is always an excitement in fall when people come back. Faculty, students and staff back in the building create a buzz in the halls.”


There are many new faces at ISD 1 this school year, including new Business Manager Earl Athman with Bergan KDV, Head of Buildings and Grounds Steve Synder, Rippleside Elementary Principal Andy Docken, and five new teachers.

“It was a challenge to find licensed individuals to fill the teaching positions,” Stifter said.


The Aitkin High School renovation project is divided into three phases. The first took place last year with remodeling. The second phase of remodeling is currently half-way complete. The next step is for the Aitkin School Board to determine the location of the secure entry, whether it be at the north or northwest entry, and plan around it.

Throughout summer, crews have been working on renovations at the high school. Stifter said students and staff can expect the hallways to be painted by the beginning of the school year. The second floor science rooms are complete with the exception of cabinetry that will arrive mid-September. Flooring in the hallway between the old gym and auditorium will be completed by mid-October.

“All classes will be held in the normal locations,” Stifter said.

Get ready, get set ... Another school year is upon us!


The summer is quickly coming to an end and another school year is about to get under way.  As principal of the Aitkin High School, I hope that all the students and staff have had a lot of time to enjoy family, friends and rejuvenate that feeling of excitement that comes with the beginning of a new school year. It has been a crazy summer once again at the high school as we have had to hired some new teaching staff, one special education teacher (Laureen Jost), and a part-time physical education teacher (Craig Larson). We also experienced some turn-over with our special educational paraprofessionals as we had to move some staff from Rippleside to the high School. New paraprofessionals at the high school are Melanie White, Aida Reich, Dawn Smeby and Dawn Bosserman. I cannot describe how hard it has been to find teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodial staff and support staff in general. In speaking with administrators across the state, other schools are feeling the same pain in hiring personnel as we have.  We are very fortunate to be fully staffed and ready to go for the 2019-20 school year.

High School Changes

• The remodeling of three science classrooms on second floor.

• AHS counseling department will be relocated to the second floor after the beginning of the school year.

• All the asbestos floors in the west wing have been removed and sealed in preparation for changes that may come in the upcoming year.

• The eighth grade lockers are all new this year and have been relocated to the second floor east hall (the colors are red and black).

• The technology department has been moved to the back of the media center on second floor, which will be the location where students will be able to pick up the MacBook Air computer during scheduled roll out times.

• The hall in front of the auditorium and old gym has been torn out and is being refinished with a special tile and paint pattern that will give it a decorative appearance. The changes in this area will give our school a completely different feel and look when walking through this hall. Great change!  

MacBook Air Information Sessions:

This year is Aitkin School District’s fourth year of using MacBook Air learning devices in grades 7-12. This technology requires a parent/student meeting to discuss the policies and expectations that are related to the use and upkeep of this learning device. The high school will be utilizing the (Apple) MacBook Air, which will give students a wide range of versatility to continue to develop and expand their computer skills needed to research and magnify learning opportunities. On Wednesday, Aug. 28 during the seventh grade orientation gathering, parents will be informed of the expectations and overall upkeep of the learning device. Parents of grades 8-12 will not be expected to attend this meeting and/or presentation to pick up their computer.

• MacBook Air policy: The policy can be found in the high school handbook on the district’s web page under the quick links on the left side of the page or in the district’s tab under policies. If you are unable to view the MacBook policy online and would like a copy of the policy before the student/parent meeting, please stop by the high school office and we will accommodate your request.

Seventh Grade/New Student Orientation:

There will be a seventh  grade/new student orientation on Wednesday, Aug. 28 from 6-7:30 p.m. with check-in starting at 5:25 p.m. All seventh grade students and students new to the district are strongly encouraged to attend this informational session as important information about the school year will be shared at this meeting. The student council will conduct tours of the building and staff will be available to answer questions.

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