My name is Tom Lee and it is my great honor to be the new Superintendent of Waseca Public Schools. I have been a professional educator for 33 years. In that time I have been a substitute (1 year in Lansing, MI), a Teacher of Students with Vision Disabilities (4 years in rural Oregon and in the metro for 8 years), an assistant principal (Minneapolis for 2 years) and a principal in Bloomington for the last 18 years (12 years at an elementary and 6 years at a middle school). My wife Shawn and I have been married for 30 years come this November and we have 3 wonderful kids (26, 24 and 20). All of these life experiences and more have helped shaped a perspective on public education that includes the following:
1) What is best for students should always be at the center of any school-related discussions. There will always be disagreement but it should be around this tenet.
2) Education occurs in a social context so building strong relationships is key to an effective education.
3) Assuring any child’s education is an immensely personal experience for parents.
4) There is no perfect school system as there are no perfect families or communities.
5) Education at its best occurs only when schools, families and communities partner together for the best outcomes possible for students.
6) There are at least a few different perspectives on public schools
- Personal – based on an individual’s personal experience with schooling themselves and that of their children. This perspective asks questions about the quality of the teachers, administrators, curriculum etc. Ultimately, it is the key questions parents ask themselves around the central question, “Is this a good school for my child and how do I know?”
- Political – This perspective may include agendas like, “What should be taught and why? What is the proper length of school year and when should it start? What are the different roles (local, state, federal), etc. It is often driven by legislation and the perceived or actual need for regulation.
- Economic – This perspective asks, “How can the schools best serve the business community? What are the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce? How do the schools contribute to the economic vitality of the area?”
- Professional – This perspective arrives from inside a school system and asks the questions like, “Is this a good place to work for me and my family? Will this be a place that facilitates my professional development? Is this a supportive environment?”
- Practical – This perspective asks questions like, “What evidence is there that the local schools are worth the taxes I pay to support them?”
7) Each perspective is valid and needs to heard and taken into consideration when operating a school system.
I look forward to engaging in the process of hearing each perspective as we seek to maintain and improve on the world class system that exists in Waseca. It is my hope that we will embark on a new strategic planning process this fall to capture each perspective and set a collaborative 3-5 year path towards even greater excellence.
Since beginning on July 1st, I have learned that Waseca Public Schools have a long tradition of providing exceptional educational opportunities and experiences for students. It is an organization that houses individuals with tremendous talent. These individuals work every day with the motto of, THINK BLUE – ACHIEVE GOLD. I have also learned of the tremendous work that has been done to keep the organization operating at a high level through difficult financial times. As this year begins, the Waseca Public Schools is on much firmer financial ground thanks to the operating levy passed by the community two years ago. With everything in perspective, let us all re-dedicate ourselves to the partnership and commitment to making the Waseca Public Schools the best place possible for students.