by Heidi L. Everett
Laurie Putnam has been named the new superintendent for St. Cloud Public School District, a role she will assume July 1, 2022, pending contract negotiations.
District Board of Education policies state board members are responsible for developing a process for recruitment, screening and interviewing of candidates. At a special meeting Nov. 3, the board voted unanimously to promote from within the current administration.
In a district statement, Leslie Green, District 742 board member and personnel committee chair, said, “Dr. Putnam has experience at all levels; she has courage to make hard decisions and understands the issues. Most importantly, she knows the community, has a good administrative team in place, knows where we have been, where we are now and where we need to go.”
Putnam has worked in education for more than 20 years, starting in the Twin Cities metro area. Within District 742 since 2009, she has served as principal at South Junior High in St. Cloud and Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph as well as assistant superintendent.
“Dr. Putnam is a rising star that is a great educational leader now and will prove to be an even more exceptional leader in the future,” Green said.
Putnam also is a parent with kids in the district, so she’s personally invested too.
District 742 is a diverse district, serving nearly 10,000 students. Demographically, 41.4 percent of students are Black or African-American, 40.5 percent are white, 7.6 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 7.1 percent identify as two or more races, 2.7 are Asian, .5 are American Indian or Alaska Native and .2 percent identify as native Hawaiian or pacific islander.
In addition, more than half the student body qualifies for free or reduced meals, 23.3 percent are English language learners who speak multiple languages at home, 20.4 percent are in special education and 2.7 percent are homeless.
Despite the complexity of trying to meet each student’s unique needs and set them up for success, St. Cloud Public Schools has created an environment where students feel safe, cared for and eager to learn.
According to the Minnesota Report Card, well over 80 percent of students in the district feel education is important, care about doing well in school and think what is learned in school is useful. Similarly, more than 80 percent of students feel safe at school and believe adults at their schools treat students fairly, listen to students, are interested in students as individuals and care about students.
In the district, 67 percent of graduates go on to some form of higher education, down slightly from statewide 71 percent.
“We are surrounded by a community that supports us, and I am excited to partner to continue and extend the great work that is currently happening,” Putnam said.
Current Superintendent Willie Jett announced at the Oct. 20 Board of Education meeting he was not seeking another contract when his current term expires at the end of this academic year, a position he has held since 2013. “Life comes in stages, and the time and timing of this decision feels right,” he said.
Originally from Maine, Putnam earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and her master’s degree in education with an emphasis in mental health counseling from the University of Maine. Putnam received her K-12 administrative license from Hamline University in St. Paul and her doctoral degree in K-12 administration at St. Cloud State University.
“The brilliance of our students, engagement of our families, and commitment from our talented staff makes me proud to be part of 742,” Putnam said.