I am excited to once again be a part of the Aitkin Public School System.

I had the opportunity to be a part of the district from 1992 - 2011 as a teacher/coach/dean of students/activities director. Aitkin Public Schools provides a wide variety of quality programs and I am honored to be the Superintendent of ISD 1.

The last eight years, I have worked at two different school districts. From 2011 - 2015, I was the principal of Menahga Public Schools. In 2015, my family and I moved back to Aitkin and I accepted an assistant principal position in Pierz where I had worked for the last four years.

With that said, life has been a bit busy at ISD 1. Summers are normally busy with cleaning, fixing and repairing. This is the case at Rippleside. We are doing some small scale remodeling projects and the normal upkeep and cleaning that schools get every summer.

The work at Rippleside is on or ahead of schedule. A group of community members spent time working and updating the softball fields behind Rippleside. As I write this, the football team and other volunteers are preparing to move the wood mulch from the parking lot to the Rippleside playground, refreshing and adding to the “padding” of the playground. Just across the parking lot to the north, other local efforts and donations are adding lights to Woock Field, allowing for night baseball games to be played in Aitkin.

As we look at the high school, there are several projects taking place right now. We are working on Phase II of the remodeling project that the district has been following. With this phase, our second floor science rooms will be remodeled, with all new plumbing, furniture etc. This will give the high school all newly-renovated science rooms that have been built to accommodate the modern day science education needs. We will also be moving the high school counsellor’s office to second floor at some point. We have painted and added new lockers to the back hallway on second floor for our eighth grade students. This locker area is pretty much complete and looks fantastic.

On the first floor we are in year one of a two-year project. The hallway between the auditorium and old gym will be getting a new floor and the green and yellow wall tiles have been removed and will be replaced. This hallway is still a work in progress.

The cafeteria, the commons area, and the floors leading down the west wing of the school have all had their tile removed. This was done this summer to allow for added installation time next summer. Most of the flooring and wall tiles that had to be removed contained asbestos, so it was decided to remove as much of the asbestos materials as we could all at once. The plan is to tile or resurface these floors in the next round of remodeling that is tentatively scheduled for next summer. In the meantime, the floors in this  area will be left as an “uncovered” concrete floor.

ISD 1 is moving forward doing what it can to meet the needs of the 21st century learners. We will focus on the individual needs of our children from the very youngest in our pre-school programs to our older children in senior high. We will continue to strive to provide the best possible education for all of our students, regardless of their career goals and or aspirations. We will work hard to prepare our students for their future, many of whom will be working in careers that have not yet been created.

Much of the learning done today in schools focus on students learning the “soft skills” of being a good person and employee; quite simply people skills. These are skills such as communication, flexibility, leadership, teamwork and time management, just to list a few. Students are still learning what would be considered “hard skills,” which would be the building and growing of their knowledge base. With a combination of skills building being done in both areas, we believe that when our students walk across the stage with their diplomas they will be ready to be life-long contributing members of our communities. That is really what it is all about.

Dan Stifter is the superintendent of Aitkin Public Schools.

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