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Bowen-Eggebraaten changed the learning landscape

Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten will retire this month after serving the Hudson School District for 10 years as superintendent. Star Observer photo by Meg Heaton

Since she first came to the district in 2005, Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten has had a singular focus – to move student learning in Hudson to higher levels.

In recent years, the Hudson School District has been recognized across the state, the region and the country for doing just that. Bowen-Eggebraaten says that is the result of not just her efforts, but the collaborative environment across the district that has nurtured innovation at all levels.

“Mary BE,” as her staff often refers to her, leads a staff of 799, making the district the largest employer in the area. During her tenure enrollment in the district has gone from 4,954 to more than 5,530 with both secondary schools at or over capacity.

But it is not just about numbers. The superintendent says the district is much different today than when she started 10 years ago.

“We have all been on a mission to challenge our students to a higher level of learning. That has meant the commitment of everyone — board members, teachers, students, staff and administrators — to working together to make that happen. I am so proud of our veteran teachers who have stepped up to leadership roles to help in that effort and willingness of the entire staff to work collaboratively to move forward. This is not something just one person can make happen. Everyone joined in.”

Bowen-Eggebraaten said the district changed how they did business when she came. She described Hudson as a well-run district when she arrived. “It was a good district then but what we had been wasn’t good enough. We wanted to be a great district and sometimes just being good can get in the way of being great.”

At the center of that plan for greatness is HSD 2025. It was a priority for Bowen-Eggebraaten that was shared by her school board then and since. It was another collaborative effort that involved students, staff, community members, board members and administrators that spelled out the goals for Hudson students in the 21st century that would prepare them to compete on a global level.

Implementation of HSD 2025 has gone on at all levels since it was adopted in 2008. At the elementary and middle school level, annual SMART goals to improve literacy, math and writing skills have been met and many times exceeded.

Hudson High School is being transformed into a high school for the future with the introduction of specialized learning academies in healthcare, science and technology. Students are being introduced to a variety of education and career paths as well as benefitting from partnerships that bring community members into the school to mentor and share their real world experiences.

And despite significant budget cuts brought on by the recent recession, the district has managed to keep pace with technology and get more of it directly into the hands of students and teachers.

“We have seen such impressive improvements at every level and it is all driven by the vision we set out in HSD 2025. It is as relevant today as it was back in 2008. It drives everything we do in the district.”

Bowen-Eggebraaten said it is because of the contributions of everyone in the district that “the capacity for improvement is so significant.” Along with her employees, she said the school boards she has worked with over the past 10 years have been an integral part of the district’s successes and sound financial footing.

In addition to improvements in teaching strategies, Bowen-Eggebraaten was at the helm when the district opened the first sustainably designed and constructed elementary school, a project that came in on budget and inspired other sustainable and energy efficient initiatives throughout the district. River Crest is the first elementary in the state to be LEED Gold certified.

In 2012 voters in the district said yes to the purchase of the former St. Croix Meadows dog track as a site for a new secondary school but the plan was sidetracked when the city of Hudson refused to rezone the property for school use. It was a setback for Bowen-Eggebraaten and the school board but they sought another solution in the construction of a school just south of River Crest. Voters said no to that proposal.

While she would have liked to be part of a solution to the secondary space shortage in the district, she said she is ready to turn the reigns over to her successor, Dr. Nick Oeullette. “I am confident he will take the district to the next level.”

Bowen-Eggebraaten is also proud of the response Hudson School District, teachers, administrators and staff had following Act 10 that dramatically changed teacher compensation statewide.

“We partnered with the teachers to come up with a new model. I have the utmost respect and regard for teacher representatives Tess Rizzardi and Brian Huser. We worked together to create something we can all be proud of.”

She and her staff also presented the school board with changes to the salary structure that she says “will keep Hudson competitive and recognize teacher for their performance, their experience and their years of service.”

“This community highly values its teachers and we need to be in a position to continue to attract and retain high quality staff.”

The superintendent has experienced more than her share of criticism, both professional and personal, during her tenure but she is philosophical about it as she leaves.

“Negativity at any level is difficult but I always tried to keep the vision I had for the district and our students in front of me. It helped to be confident in our team and our strategy. We faced things together.”

Bowen-Eggebraaten said at the heart of her decision to retire was her family. She looks forward to spending more time with her grandson and another grandchild who is expected any day now. She will also explore volunteer leadership opportunities and get to know a new community, Prior Lake, Minn., where she is moving with her husband Noel to be closer to her daughter’s family.

The superintendent said in leaving Hudson, she only wishes her own two daughters could have attended school here.

“This is a great community with a big heart, centered around family and the important things that matter.

Bowen-Eggebraaten’s official last day at superintendent is June 30.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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