District 728 welcomes back 2,400-member workforce

n Entire District 728 workforce brought together for opening



by Jim Boyle


Before 13,007 students on Sept. 3 were welcomed back to 17 schools across the Elk River Area School District, there was another welcome back program of epic proportions in the Rogers High School fieldhouse.

Superintendent Mark Bezek shut down schools and offices for a couple of hours to gather all District 728 staff in one place. It was the first time, that he’s aware of, that the district had managed such a feat.

The 2,400-plus people, many of whom boarded buses to get there, filed into the stands. Much like high school students settling in for pep fest, there was a buzz. Those there ranged from teachers, classroom assistants and principals to cooks, clerical staff and janitors.

District officials even lined up the award-winning 728 Cadets marching band that features students from  Elk River, Rogers and Zimmerman to add to the pomp and circumstance.

School Board Chairwoman Jane Bunting
School Board Chairwoman Jane Bunting

Bezek said the reason for bringing everyone together was a recognition that all staff, no matter their position, have value and are needed to carry out the district’s mission to “educate, inspire and empower the district’s diverse learners, to shape their futures, to accomplish their dreams and to contribute positively to our local and global communities.”

School Board Chairwoman Jane Bunting even had the group recite the mission statement, which the crowd on hand had clearly recited before.

Bezek’s hope for the 2013-14 school year is to move the school district’s mission forward — and faster than before. He titled his talk “Driving Faster: Moving the Mission Forward 2.0” He commented on how it’s important the district move from knowing the mission statement, the district’s core values and strategies to achieve it to doing and being the district’s mission and objectives by developing a personal mastery, a personal vision and pride, and commitment to it all.

Superintendent Mark Bezek
Superintendent Mark Bezek


Bunting talked about forces of change and challenged everyone in the gymnasium embrace them personally and professionally rather than run from them.

Nico Pronk, the vice president for Health Management and a heath science officer at HealthPartners, gave a presentation on the importance of personal health.

Pronk told the audience simple choices could have a major impact, noting eating smart, not using tobacco, exercising and using alcohol in strict moderation could add as much as 14 healthy years to the average person’s life. Adoption of these principals could also aid, he said, in the decline in new diagnoses of chronic diseases and improvements to emotional health.

Jack Uldrich, a futurist, scholar and author was the keynote speaker. He spoke about emerging technologies and how rapidly businesses and individuals are implementing those technologies.  He talked about how the pace of technological change will continue to speed up, but said it won’t put teachers out of their jobs. WB_gets a hart

Uldrich made a case that technology will help educators better reach and teach their students. But in many cases, they will need to unlearn much of what they know and learn new things.

Bezek closed the presentation with a video, called a “Prayer for the Children,” and a couple of requests of his employees. He asked all District 728 employees to remember their special roles in the lives of children when they board “your bus, walk into your building, into your classroom or walk into your lunchroom.”

He also asked staff to commit to knowing and carrying out the district’s mission and core values as well as make a personal connection to it.