by Heidi L. Everett
St. Cloud School District Superintendent Willie Jett announced he will not be seeking contract renewal when his current contract expires June 30, 2022.
At the Oct. 20 Board of Education meeting, Jett said, “Life comes in stages, and the time and timing of this decision feels right.”
Jett said he wants to take time to explore his own “passions and interests.”
Jett began his tenure in St. Cloud in 2013. Under his leadership, voters in 2016 approved a referendum for the construction of a new Technical High School in St. Cloud. Quarryview also was built in Waite Park to house the district’s early childhood and community education programs.
In addition, eight of the district’s schools have received national and state recognition as PBIS Exemplar Status for their use of Positive Behavior Implementation and Supports to address classroom management and discipline issues, to improve supports for students who require specialized assistance and to maximize academic engagement and achievement for all students.
At the same time, district graduation rates, which increased from 73.9 percent in 2016 to 75.9 percent in 2017, have been steadily declining and were 64.1 percent in 2020. Moreover, 2019 reading and math assessment for grade-level standards were mixed.
During the last two years, Jett was at the helm of the district’s pandemic response.
In fact, during his board report where he announced stepping down, Jett also announced the continuation of school masking requirements until the end of this trimester.
“Many other districts are struggling to staff classrooms, offices and buses, and we have to employ every strategy at our disposal to keep our school community healthy and coming to school and work daily,” he said. “Our rates are lower when compared to overall student enrollment.”
According to COVID-19 dashboards Oct. 20, two local districts that have optional masking requirements in school have higher cases of COVID among the student body. Sauk Rapids-Rice School District had 37 out of 4,600 students, ROCORI had 18 out of 2,100, and St. Cloud had 57 out of 10,000 students.
Jett has been more than a superintendent in the district; he’s also been a parent.
“My children will have graduated from St. Cloud area schools, and they’ve had exceptional friends, coaches and teachers along the way,” he said.
“We’re very saddened to hear that this will be your last year with District 742, but we appreciate everything that you have done for this district and the community,” Board of Education Chair Shannon Haws said. “You are leaving us in good hands. You have built a strong team.”