Belle Plaine Public Schools hired a new principal to replace Liann Hanson, who is leaving Oak Crest Elementary School at the end of this school year.
The newly hired principal, Ben Tressel, was vetted through a series of interviews and Oak Crest staff surveys, according to Belle Plaine Superintendent Ryan Laager.
“He’s a very energetic individual, highly recommended,” Laager said at a work session that preceded the regular school board meeting on Monday, April 22.
Tressel hails from the Prior Lake School District and has worked in the Twin Cities. His selection process involved a four-person panel who selected their top candidates and narrowed the pool down to six. The Oak Crest staff were then surveyed regarding what they hoped to see in a new principal of their building, Laager said.
“That really is what we used as a criteria to come up with the strengths they were looking for in selected candidates,” Laager said.
The final panel, which included Oak Crest educators, interviewed the final six candidates. They ranked their preferred candidates, with Tressel and another candidate among the top two or three choices for all members of the panel, Laager stated.
The narrowed list of candidates then returned for a second round of interviews .
Tressel was also celebrated for his knowledge of Belle Plaine’s disciplinary system as well as a social-emotional learning program the school is gearing up to launch at the elementary levels in the near future.
Tressel’s hiring comes alongside Belle Plaine High School saying farewell to its current principal, Dave Kreft, who accepted the principal position for grades 9-12 in the Becker School District.
Kreft is set to finish out the year in Belle Plaine and will begin in Becker in July, he stated.
Kreft, whose own children went to Belle Plaine Schools, stated that his experience in the district was a treasured one.
“The piece you can never replace is the relationships,” Kreft said. “Just going through the interview process for Becker really made me reflect on all the positive things we’ve got going on here.”
The school board is mobilizing to fill Kreft’s position after Monday night’s meeting. No candidates have been publicly named, but Laager believes there is a number of potential candidates.
“The candidate pool is strong and the we have stong internal candidates as well,” Laager said.
Kreft served as Belle Plaine’s high school principal for seven years. Prior to that, he was a teacher in the district.
The changing leadership comes amid news that Laager was among the top two candidates for District 191’s superintendency. Ultimately, the position in Burnsville was offered to Theresa Battle.
The board also terminated two probationary positions as they review mental health and counseling options for students. The board noted that they will not be reducing staffing in these areas, and in fact discussed ways to provide counseling options for students over summer vacation.
The school board also held a closed session following the regular meeting. The contents of the meeting are not presently public record, but the single discussion item centered on personnel.
Chuck Keller, the district’s business manager, presented the revised budget for the budget cycle which begins in March.
The revision comes as a rehashing of a preliminary budget set earlier this school year which was determined based on a set of assumed financial data points that slightly shifted since then.
Overall, the adopted budget and the revised budget are vastly similar, with the exception in slight dips to all funds decreasing from $22,046,689 to $21,756,856, with the food service and the general fund shifting downward marginally.
Expeditures went down slightly when comparing the adopted and revised budgets, with personnel spending going down by about $300,000, resulting from the replacement of senior positions with new candidates as well as the elimination of one band instructor position.
Also highlighted in Keller’s presentation was the fact that enrollment numbers over the last five years in the district have remained virtually stagnant, though a large incoming kindergarten class could begin to change that, Laager stated.
Principal Dave Kreft outlined for the board the choices students are making and the choices they are offered. Areas like small engines in the school’s agriculture department saw high class registration requests.
Kreft also outlined the trajectory set out for students in eighth grade. He noted that through periodic checks students are asked about their interests and post-secondary plans as they petain to the courses they take.
The board noted that they are willing to have low registration numbers in advanced placement or college-level classes to avoid Belle Plaine students looking elsewhere for those offerings.
Also on the Agenda
• The board adopted new dental rates approved by the insurance committee.
• In a consensus item, the board reviewed five school policies.
• The board tabled discussions about a new district building.