By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
While there are still three months left in the school year, the Little Falls School Board members all wished Superintendent Curt Tryggestad well in the new chapter of his life.
Tryggestad has applied for and been chosen by the Eden Prairie School District in the Twin Cities as its new superintendent. The final decision depends on the outcome of contract negotiations.
Tryggestad was selected over three other finalists. He expects to begin his superintendent duties in Eden Prairie July 1.
Working with the Little Falls School Board was a partnership that included trust and respect said the superintendent. The many accomplishments achieved in the district would not have even been discussed had it not been for them working together. Tryggestad said the egos were checked at the door.
“It’s great to lead, but if no one follows, what is accomplished?” he said.
“I wish Curt nothing but the best as he continues his professional career in Eden Prairie,” said Little Falls Community Middle School Principal Nate Swenson. “Curt offered me my first head principal position and for that I am extremely grateful. I will miss the strong working relationship and friendship we’ve developed over the past five years. I wish him well as he takes over in Eden Prairie and moves them forward just as he has done with us during his time in Little Falls.”
At Monday’s School Board meeting, Tryggestad thanked the Board for making his job so easy and for putting him in a position to be successful.
“I have been happy here,” he said. “This has been a great ride.”
Tryggestad has a personal connection with Eden Prairie. His second cousins live there and that helped in the decision to seek the job.
He said he thought about applying for the job when he first heard that Dr. Melissa Krull was leaving, but he did not actually send the electronic application for the job until the day before the deadline. He was hired 15 days later.
“It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks,” he said. “I really did not think I would get an interview because it was a national search.”
School Board Member Cathy Adamek said Tryggestad has been a true visionary for Little Falls Community Schools; that Resources to Engage All Learners (Project REAL) has placed Little Falls schools among the premier Minnesota school districts.
“He did this at a time when many school districts in Minnesota were just trying to hang on until the economic picture improved,” she said. “We are at a ‘good’ place and I wish him the best in his new position.”
Tryggestad said that he is most proud of Project REAL, the program he authored to place iPads in the hands of all students grades five – 12.
“It was the work of the entire administration and the Board to get this done,” he said. “The best part and what makes me most proud is watching the staff and the kids show how far it has come and how far it can go. I love standing back and watching everyone succeed.”
Another achievement Tryggestad is most proud of is bringing stability and normalcy back to the district.
“It’s hard to provide what’s best for the students when arguing about money and who’s in charge,” he said. “We are here to educate kids and we are there now.”
Board Chair Jay Spillum said he was on the School Board when it first hired Tryggestad, and that after six years, the superintendent has gone beyond the Board’s expectations in guiding the district to once again be in the forefront of offering exciting opportunities and programs for the students.
“Curt has a conservative fiscal approach which has allowed us to have a decent fund balance while still maintaining small class sizes and expanding the course offerings for the students in the high school,” said Spillum. “His Project REAL program has once again put Little Falls in a leadership position in technology use with our students. While we are disappointed in his being hired by Eden Prairie, we also realize that if opportunity knocks it is difficult not to answer the door. We give him best wishes and hope we can find someone to carry on where he left off.”
School Board Member Brad Laager said that the one thing certain about education is that all the pieces that go into educating a child will not stay the same forever.
“Curt is leaving us with a positive fund balance, many new and unique educational concepts and a sense of stability that will endure long after he is gone,” he said. “For these reasons he should be thanked.”
Business Manager Nancy Henderson, who has worked closely with Tryggestad for six years, said, “It is not very often that you can find a leader that uses a sense of humor when negotiating through difficult tasks. That is what I will miss the most about Curt.”
Board Member Sharon Ballou said Curt was an asset to the district with his vision and strategic skills.
“When he was hired, he took the time to look at the school’s history, ask the right questions then helped us move forward, improving this district to become a leader that others now strive to copy,” she said. “We as a board now have the challenge to select the right person who will ‘fit’ our school and our community. One advantage we now have is we are a leading district again. The last board stepped up and found the right superintendent. With staff and community support we will be able to repeat that result again with another quality superintendent.”
Little Falls Community Middle School Principal Jill Griffith-McRaith congratulated Curt on his new position with the Eden Prairie School District.
“It has been an honor to work with/for him over the last four years. Under Curt’s leadership, the Little Falls School District has made great strides in teaching and learning for all. Curt is a visionary and has led the district to where we are today. I wish Curt great success in Eden Prairie.”
Tryggestad said he is leaving one thing undone, and that is seeing the renewal of the referendum in a few years.
“I hope we have set the table so people will see how the district is performing and not use our accomplishments to not vote for a renewal,” he said. “The district should continue on the same course and to do that it needs to keep the same support as in past years.”
If the referendum is not passed, it would mean a reduction of about $2 million annually to the district.