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TIM LUTZ COLUMN: Thank you, Bemidji, for your support of Bemidji Area Schools

As I write my last column as superintendent of ISD 31, I find this moment to be bittersweet. It has been a great honor to serve such an excellent district over the past four years.

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As I write my last column as superintendent of ISD 31, I find this moment to be bittersweet. It has been a great honor to serve such an excellent district over the past four years.

I have found the last four years to be years of growth, especially so during the past two years of the pandemic. As a professional educator who has believed in lifelong learning, I have been amazed at my own growth over the last 24 months.

It has been an honor to serve as superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools. Have there been challenges? Absolutely, especially during the pandemic. But, during that time, the excellent administrative team and staff at ISD 31 have always done what we have thought was best for the safety and well-being of all students and employees.

In the midst of the challenges of dealing with the pandemic, we have also had to respond to claims from a small group of people in the community who believe the district is teaching Critical Race Theory.

Those claims are unfounded considering the fact that nobody in the district, including me, had ever heard of Critical Race Theory before this year. Put simply, the district has never taught CRT. Rather, we teach critical thinking skills as we work to fulfill the mission of Bemidji Area Schools, which is “to empower each learner to succeed in our diverse and changing world.”

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I am confident that we have met that mission over the past four years. In fact, the 2021-2022 school year has been a very successful year in many ways.

As Bemidji High School Principal, Jason Stanoch, stated in his commencement speech on May 28th, “Once again the bar in student achievement has been raised.”

Here are some of the highlights:

For another year, the graduation rate at Bemidji High School has increased. Students moving on to post-secondary pursuits have been recognized with another record number of scholarships with over $3 million dollars.

According to Principal Stanoch, “Collectively, students have completed 359 Advanced Placement and College-in-the-High-School courses earning 1195 college credits which equates to 10 bachelors’ degrees’ worth of credits.” That is an outstanding achievement.

In the arena of sports and activities, we have also had a banner year. As we returned to in-person learning, our students have enjoyed full and active extra-curricular seasons where students have excelled.

The high school’s unified basketball program earned a third-place rating in the state Unified Basketball Tournament. The Bemidji High School girls wrestling team made history with the first-ever dual win in Minnesota, and they were the first-ever Minnesota girls wrestling state champions.

The music department was able to return to traditional concert settings where they “wowed” their audiences with a world-class orchestra, band, choir and show choir performances. In addition, the music program was able to participate, once again, in the tradition of a music trip to Washington, D.C. where they “rocked” the Hard Rock Cafe.

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This school year also allowed the high school to give back to the community in the form of a successful Rotary Interact Blood Drive and a youth soccer camp to name just a few service projects. In addition, we were able to return to a successful in-person prom and in-person commencement ceremony at the Bemidji Sanford Center.

Have we had some setbacks? Yes. Like all school districts around the country, we have experienced learning loss due to the pandemic. However, over the course of last year, we have seen great gains in student learning thus mitigating much of that student loss.

We have also seen many behavioral issues brought on by mental health concerns and a setback in social-emotional development in students. But, we have worked hard to address those concerns with our excellent staff of counselors, social workers and caring classroom professionals.

Thanks to a strong and successful school year, we are on track for another record-breaking year next year.

It has been my honor to work with the tremendous professional staff at ISD 31 as we have moved the district toward such success. Thank you, Bemidji, for your support of Bemidji Area Schools.

Tim Lutz is superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools. He can be reached via email at tim_lutz@isd31.net .

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Tim Lutz
Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Tim Lutz. (Pioneer file photo)
(Pioneer file photo)

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