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Eggebraaten poised to be new superintendent

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River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten will likely become Hudson's new superintendent of schools this week.

The district has been in negotiations with her since last week and the school board was expected to approve a contract with her at its meeting Tuesday night.

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Bowen-Eggebraaten will replace Dr. Ron Bernth, who is retiring at the end of June after 17 years as superintendent.

Eggebraaten is currently assistant superintendent for the Kimberly Area School District in southeastern Wisconsin, which is slightly smaller than Hudson in student enrollment and facilities. That district has 3,919 students, a staff of 430, four elementary schools, one middle school and a high school.

Bowen-Eggebraaton described her leadership style as "visionary, always continuing to look at what is next." She said through a shared vision and collaboration with the staff and with the community, schools can prepare students for the constantly changing global environment where they will live and work.

As in her current post, Bowen-Eggebraaten said she would meet frequently with staff and communicate with them individually as warranted via phone, email or face-to-face meetings. She also likes to spend time in the classroom. She recently spent five days in Kimberly's high school observing staff and students. "It is the best way to see what was happening there and have them see me. I want to be sure they have things they need to do their job."

She recently worked with secondary teachers and principals on the development of writing principles for middle and high school students. "We studied the research together, shared a vision of what those principles should be and now those teachers will go back to their buildings, work with their colleagues and make it happen."

Bowen-Eggebraaton said she has extensive experience working with the community and parents on committees, with parent groups and community organizations. She has served on the United Way Board of Directors and on the boards of the Fox Cities Partnership Project and Fox Cities Children's Museum. Again she stressed the importance of providing these groups with the information they need about the schools and students and to be accessible to them to answer their questions and concerns. She believes in involving the public in school life and that there are multiple opportunites for the public to be engaged in their schools.

When asked about the role of extra-curricular activities in a district, Bowen-Eggenbraaton said she didn't consider them "extra." "Extra implies they are something we don't really need. I think of them as co-curricular and they are important to improving student learning."

Bowen-Eggebraaton she is aware of issues facing the Hudson School District and said her number one priority if she becomes superintendent will be to listen. "You need to take the time to listen to key people and let them tell me what they are proud of ere and what needs development,what advice do they have...what is the underlying message... Learners ask questions, whether you are a student or an adult. You have the information I need."

Bowen-Eggebraaton said she has managed a large budget both as a school administrator and as a school board member and said the job there is to be sure the budget reflects the district's priorities.

Bowen-Eggebraaton said keeping schools and students safe is any district's number one priority and every district should have a safety plan. "But our schools can only be so safe and still be open. The real key to safety in our schools is making that connection with students. They need to feel known. They need to know diversity is accepted and that adults in their building care about them individually."

Bowen-Eggebraaton said she is committed to working with the teachers union and see their joint role not as negotiators but rather as "problem-solvers" with shared goals.

When asked by an audience member about she would handle criticism of the superintendent and the district, Bowen-Eggebraaton said she has learned not to take such things personally but to try and understand where those on the attack are coming from.

"I act from a core set of values. You can't please all the people but you can listen to them, respect where they are coming from and try to get in their shoes ...But once I get behind an issue I have no problem standing out in front of it."

The school board and Bowen-Eggebraaton are expected to make a decision by the April 12 school board meeting.

E-mail Meg Heaton at mheaton@rivertowns.net

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