by TaLeiza Calloway – [email protected]
That is the first order of business for Willie Jett when he takes his post as the new superintendent of St. Cloud area schools.
“One of my first priorities is listening and building relationships, Jett said. “It’s about teaching and learning. It’s about the staff and the students. I want to be in the schools. I want to be visible. I like to be in the action.”
The St. Cloud School Board unanimously voted Feb. 27 to invite Jett to become the next superintendent. Jett will replace Superintendent Bruce Watkins, who will retire June 30.
Jett is an assistant high school superintendent for St. Paul Public Schools. He is excited about his new role in St. Cloud.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity,” Jett said. “St. Cloud is a wonderful place. I’m just excited to be an educational leader in that environment.”
From his short stay during the community meetings and interview last week, he says he could see St. Cloud is a great place to raise a family and a hub of student support.
“It’s a city with a small-town feel,” he said. “It’s a college area, and there’s always something to do whether it’s the arts or athletics. I think it’s a great atmosphere to raise young people.”
The leadership of “We”
Jett’s approach to leadership is a collaborative one. The 48-year-old is quick to tell you that educational leadership is always about the student and working together with teachers, parents and the community to benefit them.
“It’s a we (approach),” he said. “It’s never about me. It’s always about a student and what’s in the best interest of students and young people, and what are we going to do together to benefit young people.”
Jett has a master’s degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh. He spent nine years in the classroom and is in his 12th year as an administrator in Minnesota. He’s worked in urban and suburban schools. What attracted him to St. Cloud is not only its size but its diversity and community involvement in the betterment of student success.
A product of Osseo schools, he grew up in the Brooklyn Park area. He has taught in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Osseo, Hopkins and Minneapolis area schools. He admits to missing his days in the classroom but enjoys the access he has to more students beyond the classroom as an administrator.
“I love the classroom, he said. “I love the one-on-one interaction with students . . . As an administrator I’ve been able to expand my role.”
When he became an administrator, itt gave him a chance to interact with all students within a school building. This is something that he’s fortunate to experience in St. Paul.
“Our superintendent values her administrators being in buildings,” he said. “So I get a chance to be in buildings two to three times a week. That’s one of the things I love.”
When asked to name one thing someone might be surprised to know about him, his answer is not singular. It’s an ongoing daily task that forces him to self-reflect on his value of family.
“On a daily basis I ask myself, ‘How am I as a father and what is my own kids’ view of me?’” He also reflects daily on his partnership with his wife Tamara. They have two children — son Drake, 11; and daughter Jasmine, 9.
When he’s not working or spending time with his family, he enjoys a good performance.
“I like to watch people perform,” he said. “It can be a musician, and if they’re good at their craft, I like to watch them perform. If it’s an athletic event, I like to watch them perform.”
Jett will start his new job July 1.
Name: Willie Jett
Family: Wife Tamara. Two children: son Drake, 11; daughter Jasmine, 9.
Education: Master’s degree from University of Pittsburgh; bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Chicago.
Hobbies/Likes: Attending great performances and traveling.
Favorite Quote: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”- Ghandi