Eggebraaten plans on making a good school district great
Mary Bowen Eggebraaten knows what it's like to be the new kid on the block these days. On July 1 she took over as Hudson's new superintendent of schools. She sees her mission as clear.
"When you are already very good, the challenge is to make things great. And you do that by centering on what's most important - student learning," said Eggebraaten in an interview last week.
Eggebraaten began holding meetings with her administrators on her first day and believes they are all on the same page when it comes to their individual and collective roles.
"The plan has been and will continue to be to create a system to support learning and the success of each student we serve. Part of my job is to learn about what is already in place, listen to the people who are already doing the job and ask questions. We will be working to strengthen that system for the long term."
For the near future, the new superintendent plans on learning more about the specifics of how things work in the Hudson schools. She already has what she calls a "global view" of things but plans to reach out around the district and the community to get the details.
"I don't have an agenda. That wouldn't be appropriate. I need to know more specifics and to listen to what the people who live and work here have to say. What do they think about how things are done? What needs to be changed? What do they expect of me?"
Since she first became interested in the job, Eggebraaten has made an effort to learn as much about the district as she can and that includes dissenting points of view. "Part of the learning process is to listen to what everyone has to say. In a school district, we have both internal and external customers, our students and the community at large. Every taxpayer in the district has a stake in what we do."
Eggebraaten describes her management style as collaborative which she believes will be a good fit for the Hudson district. "We are looking for input from the community. It's about what we can do to improve without blaming people. We have to work together to problem solve if we are going to move this district forward into a successful future."
Part of that future includes what to do about enrollment growth and the need for more classroom space in the district. Eggebraaten supports the district's recommended class sizes and believes class size does matter.
"We are going to have to make room to learn. It is clear from the recent task force findings that we have facility needs that have to be addressed. We need parents to be involved in that conversation along with others in the community if we are going to come up with a solution that works."
Eggebraaten said it was too soon to comment on any possible referendum, saying she is serious about listening to all sides of the issue. "I know that not everybody will agree on one solution but everyone can and should be heard. Taxes are a big issue for every school district, and the state tax aid formula is not something districts decide or control. I do know that this school board and this administration are committed to using the resources they have in the best way possible to move this district forward."
Eggebraaten, who served six years on the Appleton School Board, has high praise for the Hudson Board of Education. "This is one of the most knowledgeable and well-prepared boards I have ever worked with and I know they are committed to the students as well as to the community."
She had similar praise for her central administrators including Nancy Sweet, director of pupil services; Arnie Fett, director of fiscal operations; and Bob Benoy, director of personnel. The team also includes the new director of instructional services, Sandi Kovatch.
"This is an outstanding team of people who have made Sandi and me feel very welcome. They are open to new ideas and seem eager to have us join the team."
Eggebraaten said she understands those who would like to see public education run like a business but it does have some unique characteristics that need to be taken into account. "It is a business, often the biggest employer in a community. But it is a very public business governed by lots of regulations and subject to requirements a private business aren't. That and it has to serve everyone who comes to its doors. And you have to put that all together to turn out a product, in our case students, who are prepared and who will be successful. That's what makes this business unique."
Eggebraaten believes she and the rest of the professionals and staff of the Hudson School District are up to the challenge. She describes herself as a "realistic optimist."
"I have a vision of great things for this district and I think we can achieve them.
To contact the new superintendent, call (715) 386-4901.
Meg Heaton at email@example.com
Prior to coming to Hudson, Mary Bowen Eggebraaten was the assistant superintendent of the Kimberly Area School District in eastern Wisconsin. She also served as director of curriculum at Kimberly, was an elementary principal in the Neenah Joint School District, an assistant principal at Edison Middle School in Green Bay and has been a classroom teacher at both the elementary and secondary levels. She is also an adjunct instructor at Viterbo University in La Crosse in the master's of education program.
She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and a master's degree in educational leadership from Marian College in Fond du Lac. She also earned a specialist's certificate in administrative leadership from UW-Milwaukee in 2001.
Along with her diverse background in the classroom and in administration, Eggebraaten also served six years on the Appleton School Board and was chairman of the facilities committee and worked on several referendums.
Eggebraaten and her husband, Noel, a self-employed businessman, have recently moved into their new home in Hudson. They have a grown daughter who lives in the Twin Cities.