Empowering Redfield Students for a Bright Future: A Conversation with Superintendent Michelle Mortensen
Tuesday, September 19, 2023
As the school bells ring and backpacks are donned, children across the nation embark on a new academic journey, heralding the arrival of "Back to School!" But in Redfield, South Dakota, this year's return to school comes with a renewed focus on the importance of education in shaping young lives and the community's future. We met the new School Superintendent, Michelle Mortensen, to discuss her vision for the Redfield School District and its role in fostering connections, community growth, and collaboration.
Preparing Students for the Evolving Workforce
In her role as the new superintendent, Michelle Mortensen is keenly aware of the changing landscape of the workforce and its impact on education. She states, "For many years, the push has been to get students to further their education in a 4-year institution. As times and workforces change, so does our need to re-evaluate the perceptions of what makes a young adult's life successful."
Indeed, in today's dynamic world, the demand for qualified and skilled employees drives economic trends. Mortensen acknowledges that success can take various forms, and not all students will follow the traditional path of a 4-year college education. Hence, the Redfield School District is dedicated to offering a curriculum that caters to all students, whether they choose a 4-year or 2-year college, a technical school, certificate programs, the military, or immediate workforce entry. The focus is on providing specialized courses that align with local industries and economic trends while integrating real-life applications and individualized learning experiences.
Mortensen's proactive approach includes a commitment to understanding the needs of the community and local businesses. She plans to stay informed about global advancements and new opportunities while enhancing the already excellent Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. This commitment extends to exploring entrepreneurial opportunities for students nurturing partnerships, and mentorships within the community to help students develop business plans and real estate strategies.
Building Strong Community Connections
A key aspect of Mortensen's vision for Redfield School is cultivating solid relationships with parents, local businesses, and community leaders. She emphasizes, "Keeping our school district front and center in the eyes of our constituents is crucial." To achieve this, the district is developing a comprehensive strategic plan in collaboration with community members, parents, and staff. This plan will ensure that the district's objectives, mission, vision, and core values align with the needs of all stakeholders.
Effective communication is another vital component of community engagement. The school district will use various channels, including social media, monthly spotlights in local publications, and regular updates to the school website to keep the community informed about financial matters, achievements, educational progress, and challenges. Mortensen believes in celebrating the accomplishments of students and staff to showcase the district's successes.
The Power of Collaboration in Education
A commitment to collaboration marks Superintendent Michelle Mortensen's leadership style. She reflects on her past experiences, highlighting the success of implementing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). These PLCs focus on critical ideas, such as the "why" of learning and the "how" of collaboration, and ask critical questions about student progress and response strategies.
This collaborative approach benefits educators by facilitating content alignment and objective setting. For parents, it offers a deeper understanding of classroom activities and objectives. Mortensen has witnessed the tangible rewards of such efforts, including remarkable growth in student achievement and teacher development.
As the Redfield School District welcomes a new school year under the guidance of Superintendent Michelle Mortensen, it is poised to be the school of choice, committed to adapting to changing workforce trends, engaging the community, and embracing collaboration. Under Mortensen's leadership, the district aspires to empower students for success, celebrate their achievements, and continue to build a thriving and vibrant community.
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