BY Matt DeBow
After nearly a year at the helm, the Stillwater Area Schools Board in May gave Superintendent Malinda Lansfeldt her second review during her tenure.
Following her first review in November 2020, former board offered the superintendent a one-year extension of her interim contract on a 6-1 vote. That extension started this month.
During the fall evaluation, the board analyzed Lansfeldt in about 10 categories.
“She went through a rather extensive performance evaluation last November,” Board Chair Bev Petrie said. “We decided that she didn’t need to go through such an extensive evaluation this time, but she did want some feedback. So she chose three of the categories.”
All board members filled out individual evaluations that were followed by a closed meeting on May 27 to discuss the results.
The school board chair is required to give a summary of what happened during an open forum.
While the board chair didn’t list an evaluation score during the board’s open meeting on June 10, she noted what Lansfeldt did well and directed her how she should move forward.
The first standard of Lansfeldt’s review was school district operations. The category encompasses facilities, transportation, technology, maintenance and personnel.
“All of these categories were thrown off in the past six months because the pandemic forced the district into distance learning,” Petrie said. “Superintendent Lansfeldt’s operations team — particularly in the area of technology and food service — worked tirelessly throughout this period quickly recreating how they serve students.”
Resuming transportation service to normal levels will be a continuing challenge.
“Lapses in service by a new transportation provider tested her management abilities in recent months, and will test her skills anew as students return to school this fall,” Petrie said. “Likewise, the district faces significant issues with overcrowding of its facilities in the south part of the district. She and her team will need to be inventive in able to accommodate the crowding while leading the community forward with a potential bond referendum next year.”
The second standard Lansfeldt selected for her evaluation was human resources.
“Superintendent Lansfeldt is an outgoing individual,” Petrie said. “She is visible, open and enthusiastic within the district, and has taken on the challenge of being more visible in the community as well. She has been plagued, however, by unusually high turnover within top administration.”
Even though the board noted Lansfeldt wasn’t to blame for the personnel shift, the board recommended Lansfeldt make retention of key personnel in leadership positions a priority.
Recently, in the area of human resources, Lansfeldt has hired more people of color in top roles.
“Considering the dramatic increase in students of color in this district during the past decade this emphasis should continue,” Petrie said. “As well as her effort to encourage employees to be cognizant of the issues of diversity and inclusion when dealing with students.”
Lansfeldt is improving in her efforts with collective bargaining.
“Her efforts in that regard were hampered by a lack of consistent support,” Petrie said. “Again brought on by the upheaval in district top leadership in the past year.”
The third category Lansfeldt selected was student support. Many elements of student support were not observed by board members because of remote education.
“However, the need to support students’ social and emotional needs will become critically important following the pandemic and what may have been inconsistent learning models,” Petrie said. “Some students may require extra academic help to catch up while others will need extra social and emotional support.”
This will be a challenging area for the district leader during the upcoming school year.
“She and her team were able to navigate difficult situations this spring involving walkouts and demonstrations by students with competing philosophies,” Petrie.
“In summary this was an unprecedented year and Superintendent Lansfeldt handled herself with professionalism under pressure,” Petrie said.
Competencies were not demonstrated by Lansfeldt because of the incredibly unique circumstances of the 2020-21 school year, the board
“The board looks forward to Superintendent Lansfeldt and her team being able to leave crisis management behind, and return to a more normalized district leadership model that allows for a more strategic planful approach to the long-term needs of the district.”
At the board’s next meeting it will discuss goals and will tie those goals into what the superintendent plans on getting done for the next school year.
Stillwater graduation rates increase
Stillwater Area High School had a graduation rate of 96.6% in 2020 - up from 95.8% the previous year, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Education. A total of 644 students graduated from Stillwater Area High School last year.
Overall the district’s graduation rate in 2020 was 93.5%, which includes students at St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center as well as Special Education students who can stay enrolled in district schools until they are 21 years old.
The state average in 2020 was 83.8%. Stillwater Area High School had its 2021 in-person commencement ceremony at Roy Wilkins stadium on
For more information about Stillwater’s graduation rates compared to the rest of the state, visit https://rc.education.mn.gov/.