School district will promote Blesener

by Jim Boyle
The Elk River Area School District is preparing to take community engagement to a higher level in the coming year.
Charlie Blesener, director of District 728 Community Education, will be promoted to a director of community engagement.
District administrators have been formulating a plan to carry this out since suggesting the change this spring at a work session.
Members of the Elk River Area School Board reviewed the framework Monday night that will free Blesener enough to take on this new assignment, which will include expanding the district’s presence and opportunities for community engagement and provide internal coordination for strategic planning processes and annual evaluations of it.
Three managers will be stepping up to take on a share of Blesener’s duties this school year. Their job titles will remain the same, but $10,000 to $12,000 has been earmarked to compensate them for their added duties as they advance on the third level administrators salary schedule.
They are Kathy Simonson, manager of ECFE; Cory Franson, manager of community education; and Pauline Knox, manager of community education operations.
The plan also includes beefing up communications by upgrading a part-time communications assistant position to a communications specialist position.
The Elk River Area School Board will begin taking action to put these plans and other details in place for the coming school year at its 7 p.m. regular meeting Aug. 22 in council chambers at Elk River City Hall.
The cost of these and other changes will be about $50,000, but less than half will come from the general fund. Most will come from Fund 04.
In order to free Blesener to give the district the capacity and horsepower to lead strategic planning efforts and engagement efforts, a considerable number of duties are proposed to be reassigned.
In some cases they are things the managers who are being assigned have had their hands in before. Some things will be brand new to them, but many are seasonal tasks that Simonson, Franson and Knox are more than prepared to tackle, Blesener said.
It’s no coincidence that the timing of these changes comes shortly before the district rolls out its next major strategic planning initiative, which really got its start this past spring with three community cafes held throughout the school district.
Blesener and Rod Barnes, the director of human resources for the school district, have assembled the framework for the plan, which they describe as a ‘crawl before they walk, and walk before they run’ model.
“We don’t want to get too committed to (one model),” Superintendent Mark Bezek prefaced Monday’s discussion. “The strategic planning might show us a different way.”
What the board and district is fully committed to, however, is greater community engagement and deeper relationships with members of the community.
“It’s a long-term commitment,” Barnes said.
Blesener compares the importance of it to the basic premise that exists with a student’s classroom experience.
“Classes are most interesting to students where they are engaged in learning,” Blesener said.
The idea is that as the district shares its challenges with the community, people may have thoughts and suggestions on how to handle them that may not be thought of otherwise. The cafes were a great example of this, Blesener said.
“I think we have laid out a good plan to take us into the future,” Bezek said.