By Amanda Dyslin
---- — ST. PETER — The St. Peter Public School District is in a good place with growing enrollment and the possibility of a new school building in its future — which makes the timing right for Supt. Jeff Olson to retire, he said.
“I think our district is in really good shape,” said Olson, who has been the superintendent for 11 years and will retire June 30. “I still really like my job.”
Retiring when he still enjoys the position so much seems like the best way to go out, Olson said. And he wants to make sure a new superintendent has the opportunity to have input into the plans for the school.
Putting the district's best interest first in that way is no surprise to St. Peter Middle/High School Principal Paul Peterson who has worked with Olson for 15 years. Olson hired Peterson, first as a teacher, and they've worked together as administrators for the past 11 years. Peterson described Olson as a selfless leader.
“He's been around here and around the school district for decades. His influence is all over; he's got his fingerprints on everything,” Peterson said. “He's really demonstrated not just unbelievable leadership abilities, but also his work ethic is umatched. It's been a great run, and I'll be grateful to him forever for what he's helped me understand about what it means to be a good administrator.”
Olson told his team of administrators Wednesday morning about his plans to retire.
“It's definitely with mixed emotions,” said Olson, who was named the 2013 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year.
Olson's retirement will come at the end of a 39-year career in the St. Peter school district.
Before taking over as superintendent during the 2003-04 school year, he was principal of St. Peter High School for 10 years. He also has served as curriculum director, a coach and a teacher, having been hired right out of Concordia College to teach social studies at St. Peter High School during the 1975-76 school year.
Olson received his master's degree from Minnesota State University and holds a Ph.D from the University of Minnesota.
He listed numerous highlights from his career, including:
• St. Peter becoming the first district in the state to become an AdVancEd District Accredited School System.
• Overseeing a significant addition/remodel project at North Intermediate.
• Starting the process for determining the future building needs of the district well into the future to meet increased enrollment projections.
Olson said he and his wife, Judy, raised all three of their children in St. Peter, and seven of their 10 grandchildren are enrolled in St. Peter schools or will be soon. They plan to stay in St. Peter, and Olson will be considering other educational ventures but isn't sure what they might be yet.
Olson is grateful to his staff, teachers, team of administrators and School Board for their collaboration in “creating a place where learning matters for each and every student we serve.” He's also grateful to his role model and mentor, Gil Carlson, the previous superintendent.