Dr. Dennis Peterson announced he will be retiring at the end of the 2021-22 school year after almost 21 years as the superintendent of Minnetonka Public Schools.
He began leading the district at a time when there was declining enrollment and budget shortfalls.
During his tenure with Minnetonka Schools, student achievement increased by every academic measure, including the average ACT score climbing from 23.1 to 27.7, and 86% of high school seniors enrolling in college.
He also helped halt a pattern of annual budget-cutting after 2005 and focused on innovation and growth. According to a release from the district, Minnetonka Schools continued to thrive during the great recession and beyond by offering new learning opportunities for students.
“Leading this incredible school district has been the highlight of my career,” Peterson said. “It has been a privilege to work alongside each of our exceptional teachers and administrators and with our outstanding school board members throughout the years. I’m proud of all we have all accomplished together and of the myriad educational opportunities and pathways we have developed for our students. It has been my great honor to serve the students and families of this district, and I will continue to do so to the best of my ability throughout the remaining months of my superintendency.”
Peterson’s leadership has supported new opportunities for children, including the International Baccalaureate Program, Chinese and Spanish Language Immersion, Minnetonka Research, the Navigator Program, VANTAGE, Tonka Online, Tonka Codes, MOMENTUM, personalized learning, intensive interventions, personal pathways for learning and improved rigor at all levels. This year, the district launched a K-12 online school and the Students Achieving Independent Life program, which serves young adults ages 18-21 with special needd.
The district has modernized all school facilities, earned Energy Star Leadership awards, joined Minnesota’s Q-Comp program (performance pay for teachers), rebuilt community pride in its schools, improved communications, initiated open enrollment, and secured necessary funding through voter-approved referenda, legislative advocacy, marketing and fundraising.
“Dr. Peterson has been a treasure for our district,” said Chris Vitale, school board chair. “His visionary leadership has catapulted Minnetonka Schools to one of the best school districts in the nation and has helped to ensure that each child that enters our schools has the opportunity to achieve their potential. On behalf of the Board and the community, I want to thank Dr. Peterson for all he has done and continues to do for Minnetonka Schools, its students, families and staff.”
Peterson has earned several state and national awards including American Association of School Administrators President’s Award for Vision and Leadership in Technology (2005), eSchoolNews Tech Savvy Superintendent Award (2006), ERDI Excellence in Educational Leadership Award (2007) and Minnesota Superintendent of the Year (2009). The district has also earned a National School Boards Association Magna Award for Marketing School Choice and three NSBA educational technology recognitions (2007, 2008, and 2014).
Peterson began his career as a teacher in Clark County, Nev. He accepted his first superintendency in 1967 in Bison, S.D. His career of service includes Boulder Valley School District and Mounds View School District in assistant superintendent roles. He served as the superintendent in Southland School District (Minn.), Mitchell School District (S.D.), Laramie County School District (Wyo.), Rockwood School District (Mo.) and Princeton City School District (Ohio). Peterson earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder and completed doctoral work at Stanford University. Both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees were completed at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.
Among his other achievements, Peterson was honored as Outstanding Superintendent in South Dakota (1985) and named to the “100 Top School Administrators in America” NSBA (1987).
A celebration to honor Peterson and his legacy will take place at the end of the school year. More details on that will be forthcoming. The Minnetonka School Board will begin an immediate nationwide search for a superintendent to begin serving in July.