Story and photos by Jim Boyle


Elk River Area School District Assistant Superintendents Dr. Jana Hennen-Burr and William Campbell introduced four new hires to the School Board on Aug. 24. All four, however, are familiar faces in District 728.

Campbell, who is in charge of elementary educational services, introduced Lisa Willman, the principal at Zimmerman Elementary School, and Kate Loveland, the principal at Parker Elementary School.

Hennen-Burr, who is in charge of secondary educational services, introduced Nicole Rittenour and Kevin Jost.

Willman, Loveland promoted to elementary principalships

Lisa Willman showed boundless energy and thanked everyone for her appointment as the interim principal last school year.

“You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried,” she said. “COVID tried in the spring and ... it’s trying again this fall, but I am persevering.”

The smile appears to be fully intact.

Willman was an elementary teacher for 24 years and a curriculum specialist for two years before taking the helm at Zimmerman Elementary School. This will be her second year there.

“Zimmerman is one of the hidden gems in our school district,” she said. “We have the privilege of educating our youngest learners from early education through second grade.

“We are able to work with Westwood Elementary and Principal Tim Stowe and his staff on many collaborative-type events, and we’re able to walk across the street and use the high school for band concerts. We have a small community in a great big school district.”

Kate Loveland replaces Scott Lempka, who took a new position at Minnewaska Area Elementary School. Scott and his wife, Kari, also opened a retail store in downtown Alexandria called 6th & Broadway Clothing and Decor.

Loveland has been in District 728 for 16 years, 11 as a teacher. She was a curriculum specialist for five years.

“And now I have the honor and privilege to lead Parker Elementary,” she said, saying it is such a community and family at Parker.

Loveland said she and her husband live in the school district and make their home in Otsego.

“We’re here for the long haul,” she said.

Rittenour takes RMS job, Jost moves over to Prairie View

Dr. Nicole Rittenour is the principal of Rogers Middle School. She has a long history in the district too and currently serves as the president of the ROADS Foundation that raises money for scholarships.

Rittenour said she lives in Zimmerman with her husband and son, who is going into fifth grade.

“You have a fantastic group of directors,” Rittenour told members of the Elk River Area School Board.

Kevin Jost is a new assistant principal at Prairie View Elementary and Middle School. He started in the school district as a special education teacher and has coached athletics.

He said he is the co-founder of an exponential learning program that came about with a $25,000 grant. He has also been an online teacher, which turned into an online coordinator position.

He has been an interim assistant principal at Rogers Middle School for two years.

He has been part of the digital learning team over the past six years.

“It’s my intention to use everything I learned over the last 12 years to best serve the students and families at Prairie View,” he said. “It’s a privilege and honor to be in this position.”

Superintendent Dr. Dan Bittman called this group of leaders dynamic and said people stay in places that are dynamic and innovative and places they love and are part of who they are.

“They have all grown with us and done amazing things in each of their roles,” Bittman said.

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