School board chairman will not run again

Published 9:20 am Thursday, August 21, 2008

A dedicated and even-handed member of the Albert Lea school board will be missed, according to Superintendent Dave Prescott, as Chairman Ken Petersen will not be running for re-election this year.

Petersen has been on the school board for more than nine years and has been the chairman for seven years. He has served through passing and failing referendums, the building of a new high school, the No Child Left Behind Act’s changes and Minnesota’s Adequate Yearly Progress reports.

Prescott said Petersen has been a stable, fair presence through many issues the school district has faced in the last decade. He has been a driving force, the superintendent said, with increasing student achievement for all students.

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Petersen said the decision not to run again came because it felt like the right time.

“I thought it was probably time for someone else to serve,” he said. “I’m a believer in term limits, so I believe my term is probably up.”

He feels he served the district well, Petersen said, and served the students in the community to the best of his ability. He made it through many challenges, and it’s the challenges the he looks back on and feels blessed to have worked them out and moved forward, he said.

Some challenges Petersen said he faced during his time on the school board were obviously referendums, but also budgeting items and managing the entire district’s budget.

On the positive side, Petersen said he really enjoys the look on high school seniors’ faces as they cross the stage for graduation. He said he especially enjoyed handing his two sons their diplomas in 1999 and 2002. Petersen said he also enjoyed presenting and attending the Teacher of the Year ceremonies.

A lot of satisfaction came for Petersen knowing the work he did for students. Along the way he said he worked with a lot of good administration and fellow school board members.

“It made the job much easier having good people with me,” he said.

Even though it’s the right time to end his service, Petersen said it’s a bittersweet moment.

“I feel reluctant because I think there’s much more work to do, but at the same time, I feel it’s the right decision,” he said.

Petersen was appointed originally in 1999 after a resignation. At that time there were 10 applicants interviewed by the school board, and Petersen was chosen.

He ran originally because “I’ve always felt we were put on this Earth to give something back,” he said. Serving on the school board is one thing he could to do give back to the community.

“We’ll miss his even, steady hand in the business of shaping education in Albert Lea,” Prescott said.

The superintendent said Petersen brought his strong business background to the position. He also has a strong background with financial issues.

“He also has a really good pulse on the community,” Prescott said, adding anyone can talk to him and everyone in the community knows him.

It is unusual, according to Prescott, for one person to hold the position of chairman for so long. Petersen is one of the longest running chairman, at least since Prescott has been in the Albert Lea School District. Petersen is also one of the longest running school board members.

“We certainly appreciate his service,” the superintendent said. “He certainly will be missed.”

The entire school district will miss his presence, Prescott said, and the community has been well-served by his tenure on the board.

“We need some more good people to find out what it’s like to be a board member and hopefully step up,” Prescott said.

Filing for school board candidates begins Tuesday and runs through Sept. 9. Vice Chairman Bill Villarreal and Treasurer Bill Leland are up for re-election. It has not been confirmed if either member is running.