Janesville73.5°

Retirement is just another opportunity for Edgerton superintendent

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Stacy Vogel
August 26, 2008
— Dr. Norm Fjelstad called it a retirement when he announced he would be leaving the Edgerton School District in two years, but some of his colleagues don’t believe he knows the meaning of the word.

“Retirement is not really, I don’t think, in his vocabulary,” school board member Cindy Vondrasek said. “Knowing Dr. Fjelstad, his retirement is just another door opening to more opportunities to serve.”


Fjelstad announced Monday he’ll leave his post at the end of the 2009-10 school year after 22 years as Edgerton superintendent. He plans to spend the first few years of his retirement creating a mentoring program for new superintendents through the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, he said.


School board members said Fjelstad would be the perfect person to train rookie administrators.


“He’s a phenomenal leader,” said Jim Raymond, a 24-year veteran of the school board. “He defuses uncomfortable situations. He’s able to get people to kind of calm down, take a look at the big picture and help them to work through and make a rational decision on things. That’s a gift.”


During Fjelstad’s two decades as superintendent, the district has gained a reputation for getting along and planning ahead. Fjelstad helps the board budget four or five years in advance, and the district was one of the first in the area to settle its 2007-09 teachers contract.


That emphasis on planning ahead is what made Fjelstad announce his retirement two years in advance. He knows it’s not easy to find a high-quality superintendent nowadays: The position tends to be a lightning rod for controversy, and superintendents don’t make much more than principals, he said.


Plus the job is a lot of work, though that never bothered Fjelstad, he said


“You’re on duty pretty much 24/7 in a small community, and that’s why, if you really love your job, that’s not a burden,” he said.


But Fjelstad does a lot more than run the school district. He has been an active member of the community, from teaching Sunday School to starting Edgerton’s Relay for Life fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society.


He was also the first chairman of the Sterling North Book & Film Festival.


The school board hopes to find a new superintendent who can be a community leader like Fjelstad, President Brian Donnelly said.


“He really was involved in a lot of things that made Edgerton a better community, and that made him all the more effective as a school board superintendent,” Donnelly said. “It may be difficult to fill his shoes.”


SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH

Superintendent Norm Fjelstad doesn’t intend to be involved in the district’s search for his replacement, he said.


“I think it’s very important that I not have my shadow cast on anything that happens after I retire,” he said.


But Fjelstad did lay out a suggested plan for finding a new superintendent in time for his retirement at the end of 2009-10.


-- Fall 2008: The staff, school board and community participate in strategic planning to decide what to look for in a new superintendent. The school board looks for a consulting firm to aid in the search.


-- Spring 2009: The school board hires a consulting firm and prepares for the search.


-- Summer 2009: The district advertises the opening.


-- Fall 2009: The school board and consulting firm review the candidates.


-- January/February 2010: The board is ready to conduct interviews and hire a candidate.


-- July 1, 2010: The new superintendent starts.



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