Before school started this week, the Milton Courier checked in with interim Superintendent Rich Dahman. Since he began working in the Milton School District in July, the recently retired Winona Area (Minnesota) Public Schools superintendent said he has met a lot of people, many of whom look forward to a new start.
He’s learned people value the district’s strong staff and family-like atmosphere and he's witnessed that atmosphere himself.
“I’ve seen people really dig into the work but also enjoy the work that they’re doing and enjoy the people that they work with. I think that’s important,” he said.
Overall, he said “I’ve been very impressed with the work that’s been going on here and people’s support of the school district.”
Dahman knows that there has been controversy in the school district.
“I think that people that I’ve talked to in the community are very anxious for us to have a fresh start as a school district,” he said.
As the superintendent for one year, he said, “Really what I want to do is look at the things that we’re doing well and how do we continue doing those things, and then identify key places where we can continue to improve. A big part of my role as superintendent is to make sure that we have the resources in the places where they should be to have the highest impact on student achievement.”
Individually, he’s met with each of the seven school board members to ask what they see as important.
He said his role in relation to the school board is to answer individual questions and get information out to the full board so they are aware of the different issues within the school district.
“I think the more clarity and knowledge that the school board has, the easier it is for them to make decisions,” he said.
Both in the previous school districts that he worked and in Milton, he said people care deeply about their school district.
“That doesn’t mean that they’re always going to agree on what the best path forward is,” he noted.
Dahman added he would rather have people have strong feelings about something than not care at all.
Sometimes people will advocate for something that’s for a certain school or department or individual, he said.
“While we keep those things in mind, the decisions that we, meaning myself and the school board, the decisions that we make have to be around what’s best for the entire group,” he said.
Welcoming staff back at the start of a new school year, he said he reminded them of the importance of their work: “Being in the education business has a huge impact on the lives of students and on our communities.”
When asked if he might serve as superintendent for more than one year, he said he tries not to spend a lot of time worrying about things that are out of his control.
“The intent when this job was posted and when I took the job was that I would come in and on an interim basis and work hard for a year,” he said. “So that’s what I’m going to do.”