Peterson earned his principal license through Minnesota State University. And when Olson became superintendent in 2003, Peterson accepted the principal position at the middle/high school.
In the last few years Peterson went on to receive his doctor of education through MSU and his superintendent license, but he said he didn't pursue the degree with an aim of becoming a superintendent.
“I wanted to challenge myself and wanted to learn more. I think it was more just about the educational experience versus 'this is going to help me get a (superintendent) job somewhere down the line,'” he said.
But when Olson announced his plans to retire, Peterson felt the time was right to take the next step. His main hesitation was the added distance between the new position and students.
“I truly enjoy children. I like engaging with them on an academic level, but also a social level,” he said. “But I hope that I can continue on with some of the visible things that Dr. Olson has done, by going to events, by inviting students to board meetings. He's a great model for that. He stayed very engaged with kids.”
Peterson said he'll be taking numerous other cues from Olson's leadership.
“He's been a tremendous mentor,” he said. “Everything from dealing with people, to always thinking ahead 3-5 years — all of the different elements of the superintendent (position).”
Olson said Peterson has the vital leadership skills needed to do the job, including having a vision, being able to enact that vision, great communication skills, excellent managerial and instructional leadership skills, and always doing what's best for the kids.
“No. 1, we always look for people who have 'it.' And 'it' is hard to define, but you can see it, and he has 'it,'” Olson said.
Moving forward, Peterson said his initial challenges will be hiring two principal positions at South Elementary Early Learning Center and the middle/high school. With the continued growth in the district, he also will be working on connecting with the community about the possible $55 million bond proposal that would include a new high school building.