With a new school year starting, I would like to introduce you to the new Kenyon/Wanamingo superintendent, Beth Giese. She has agreed to take on the job of .5 Principal and .5 Superintendent.

What qualifies Beth for this daunting task? I'd say quite a bit of unusual life experience. Beth grew up in Pine Island. As soon as she graduated, she joined the U.S. Army to take advantage of the G.I. Bill while serving our country. While she was stationed in Fort Dix, New Jersey, she took training for her MOS of 88M--- she learned how to drive semi trucks and busses with her CDL license. She served in the Army for 12 years and earned her Master's Degree in Education and Administration for her Superintendent degree.

Upon leaving the military, she took a teaching position in Kasson/Mantorville as a special education and physical education teacher. After that, she taught in South Washington County. She then taught in Cannon Falls until a position came up to be the Principal in the Cannon Falls school district. She applied for it, and got it. From there, she was hired as the Cannon Falls Superintendent. While working with the Cannon Falls school district, she and her husband Brad decided to purchase a small hobby farm. They reside there still with 2 Tennessee Walker horses, Rip & Finn. They have 3 adult children, Lauren, Anna and Matthew.

After 20 years in Cannon Falls, she took the position of Superintendent at St. Francis in Anoka County. Although this was truly a prestigious position, she found it was too far from home, and she missed her interaction with the kids in school. She made the decision to go back to her small town roots, and accepted the position she now holds as Principal/Superintendent of the Kenyon/Wanamingo schools. I'd say she is well qualified for this position, wouldn't you agree?

We had a candid conversation about the areas Beth feels need the most focus to achieve her goals. Financial transparency is a top priority. She means to address fiscal accountability, and rebuild the trust of the school district. Secondly she wishes to fix what she sees as a communication deficit using all forms of social media. Beth welcomes questions and comments, as well as ideas for the school, and will maintain a social presence where she can be reached. Concerned parents, staff and students can call her office, stop in and chat when she is available, or contact her on Face Book at @Suptgiese.

Beth feels that authentic leadership can be maintained by being present and listening, and also by having a community presence. You will find her at band concerts, sports events and FFA meetings, to name a few. She welcomes conversations at these events.

Enrollment is up about 20 students this year. That means the right amount of staff to students is a priority. She is putting together a 3 year plan to address this issue. The plan is a solid one, so I asked her how she is going to accomplish all these goals. "I'm not afraid to say no", she replied. "If a request is made that we as a district can't currently afford, I will deny the request and look for ways to implement the request at a later date."

She is addressing state funding, and said that the state is covering 44% of cross subsidy funding for special education for the 2024/25 school year. Keeping the current students enrolled in the K/W school district is important. Focusing on drawing new students is crucial, too. For every child enrolled in the system, the state pays the school a set amount for operating expenses, food and transportation, to name a few things that they need. Knowing this, you can see how revenue from new students can help balance the budget. Keeping the students we already have is an important step, so keeping the extracurricular activities we currently have in place is key. Addressing mental health is also a priority, and letting students know they are heard is valuable. When the students know they are being listened to, and that their ideas are important, more ideas surface.

Putting all these ideas into play will be a big job, but Beth has a "Can Do" attitude, and believes that working together to address the issues we all are facing in the upcoming year is the key to success. I encourage you to get to know Beth as a person on a mission for the good of all concerned. You will be able to "hear" her thoughts and ideas in her new monthly column in the Messenger! I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say, and she is excited to hear your thoughts on her ideas, too. Here's to a great year ahead!!