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Bemidji school board names Jeremy Olson as next superintendent

Crookston Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Olson will soon make his transition to Bemidji Area Schools after being selected as the upcoming superintendent during a second round of interviews at the district office held Thursday.

Jeremy Olson has been the superintendent of Crookston Public Schools since July 1. "I'm really excited about this new challenge," he said. "People here are just awesome." (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
Jeremy Olson, formerly the superintendent of Crookston Public Schools, was chosen to be the next Bemidji Area Schools superintendent on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
(Eric Hylden / Forum News Service)
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BEMIDJI — Crookston Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Olson will soon make his transition to Bemidji Area Schools after being selected as the upcoming superintendent during a second round of interviews at the district office on Thursday.

During his interview, Olson highlighted his ideas, priorities and action steps as they relate to many areas of the district’s operations.

Stating a commitment to visibility, trust and transparency, Olson detailed his first step as superintendent will be to establish relationships with tribal nations and the broader community.

“Public visibility is very important, and developing those relationships with staff, students and various other groups of people was paramount in my past roles,” Olson said.

Enhancing communication with the public was a common theme throughout Olson’s interview particularly because of his past experiences with referendum attempts at previous jobs.

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“Better communication with the public helps any district to build trust and transparency again,” Olson said. “Asking the public for financial help, I’d state very clearly what the disparities are with state aid not keeping up with inflation. It’s not schools being irresponsible with their spending.”

In terms of gaining public support for a referendum, Olson emphasized the importance of thorough research before public outreach and determining a district’s value proposition in order to avoid cuts in programs and staffing.

“You need a value proposition of why people need to come to this district when there are other schools in the area, and it’s harder to have that if programs are cut,” Olson said. “I refuse to ask for a referendum without proper research, but when people ask why their taxes should go up, I tell them ‘you were educated somewhere and it’s only fair to return the favor.’”

Olson also spoke about financial literacy as a means of attaining more equitable education for all students and promoting four-year colleges and trade schools equally.

“Financial literacy is a piece that’s impactful for all students to have a strong lifestyle,” Olson said. “Equitable education also provides a menu of options beyond four-year colleges. They’re right for some, but not right for all students. We need a strong advising program to direct people to find their passions.”

Olson emphasized the role technology plays in enhancing education while still recognizing the “soft skills” that students need to develop outside of technology usage. He advised against using technology for technology’s sake, but rather providing opportunities for students to gain job skills using technology.

“Investing in these areas such as business software, robotics and coding is fundamental in providing skills for jobs that are available,” Olson added. “Technology is here to stay, so it’s important that students are using it to problem-solve together.”

Olson’s collaboration skills were highlighted during reference checks, which detailed his success in shifting enrollment trends upward, passing referendum levy changes and his work with diverse populations.

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Red Wing Superintendent Karsten Anderson also underwent a second interview and after deliberations, the board unanimously approved Olson to take the position.

How we got here

Effective July 1, Olson will take over for outgoing Superintendent Tim Lutz who announced his retirement at a Jan. 24 school board meeting .

Following his announcement, the board employed the Minnesota School Board Association to begin the search process at a Feb. 3 special meeting .

The board met several times thereafter to undergo interview training and schedule further steps in the search process including gathering stakeholder feedback.

Four finalists were selected from a pool of 11 applicants based on this feedback and other criteria established by the board.

A first round of interviews took place April 11 and also included Bemidji High School Principal Jason Stanoch and Thief River Falls Superintendent Donita Stepan.

Olson and Anderson were named as the two finalists , and the board is now set to conduct contract negotiations with Olson. A contract is expected to be approved at a May 2 special meeting.

“We believe Mr. Olson has the qualifications and skills to move the school district forward,” board chair Carol L. Johnson said. “We look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”

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Olson has been Crookston Public Schools superintendent since 2018 and acted previously as superintendent of school districts in Underwood and Henning, Minn.

Prior to Underwood and Henning, Olson served as superintendent and principal at Pingree-Buchanan School District in North Dakota and had prior experience in a variety of teaching and principal roles in elementary, middle and high schools.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in history education from the University of Jamestown, a master’s in education leadership from the University of North Dakota and a doctorate of education administration from the University of South Dakota.

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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