December 8, 2016
As Pete Grant is retiring on June 30, 2017, there is a need for someone else to lead Owatonna Public Schools. Dr. Jeremiah Olson and Mr. Jeffrey S. Elstad heard about the job opening, and as the process went on they ended up as the semi-finalists for the job.
Both answered questions from parents, community members and staff in the Small Group Forum at Owatonna Senior High School.
At the beginning of each session, there was a sense of control and light-heartedness that continued while both finalists talked. These mid-afternoon discussions were easy to participate in and they both had a very open truth to their answers.
Meet the candidates
Both candidates shared some important views and characteristics. They agreed that the superintendent should have one foot in the community and the other in the school to keep communication up to date.
Also, both had families that would be brought through the school district, and they were deeply passionate about becoming the next superintendent.
Soon after, he furthered in his reasoning for coming to Owatonna. Olson said, “I enjoy the size of the community. I like that it is big enough to have a lot of the amenities, but at the same time small enough that it can develop personal relationships and partnerships. I think that is really awesome.”
Both candidates showed ambition. Olson said, “I am a person that likes challenge, so I really enjoy the challenge that I believe this district would provide.”
Olson would have to transition from being the single superintendent of two small North Dakota schools which have limited diversity compared to Owatonna, and this opportunity seemed to peak Olson’s interest to be a superintendent here.
Elstad had his turn to answer the questions of staff members and community members on Dec. 6. He introduced himself to the group and discussed his bio. Elstad has two sons and two daughters, and three of the four are now working their way through the Owatonna school district.
Elstad said, “I have seen their experiences and the pride they have in that [being in the Owatonna school district], and that inspires me.” Elstad was asked, “Do you have a vision for OHS about anything you would like to change?” Elstad said, “One of the things I would really like to change is, I’d like to find a new mechanism for identifying how we get student voice and choice into the space… We serve students. It would make sense for us to make sure that there’s student voice in the space to do that.” Showing his appreciation for students’ voice was apparent in his answer.
What influences the candidates
Both Olson and Elstad expressed what influenced them to be superintendents during an interview. Olson said, “I enjoy the setting, working with people to set direction and working with people to set vision, and then carrying out that vision. There is something that’s really rewarding about seeing a district go from this point, from point A, to point B and get better.”
Elstad said, “When I was starting to learn more about being an administrator, I felt like I could have a bigger impact on educational system. I like to advocate, and so as a superintendent, I am able to advocate at the legislative level for the district.”
Both have great experience in working with school boards and students, and it will be exciting to see who the School Board will pick before winter break.