Meet the next superintendent of the Albert Lea schools

Published 9:01 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The next superintendent of the Albert Lea Area Schools, if a contract is signed, would start July 1. What are his first words to the Albert Lea community?

“I appreciate the opportunity the Albert Lea Area school board has given me,” he said Monday in his first interview with the local media. “I am fortunate to have had a variety of leadership experience. That leadership will serve the district well as we move into the potentially difficult time ahead.”

Meet 43-year-old Mike Funk. His wife’s name is Anne, and they have three daughters: Madeline, 10, Katie, 7, Alex, 2.

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He said his hobbies are reading, spending time with family, going downhill skiing with his children and exercising.

Considering he is a lieutenant colonel in the Minnesota National Guard, it makes sense he emphasized how much he likes to exercise. In the military, it’s called physical training.

Some locals already know Funk because he led the yearlong military deployment to Kosovo. Soldiers stationed at the Albert Lea Armory were part of the international peacekeeping force.

Funk presently is the superintendent of the Bird Island, Olivia, Lake Lillian School District, often called BOLD School District. The BOLD school board hired an interim superintendent while Funk served abroad.

He said he doesn’t expect to be gone like that again.

“I don’t really see any of that on the horizon for any time in the near future,” Funk said.

He was recently selected to attend the Army War College. Through part-time Internet classes over the next couple of years, Funk will earn a master’s degree in strategic studies.

He said the degree will add to his leadership qualities and said he doesn’t look to staying in the Guard much longer. He said his wife told him he should complete the Army War College degree then get out of the Guard.

He joined the Minnesota National Guard in 1988 after finishing ROTC at St. John’s University in Collegeville. There, he received a bachelor’s degree in government. His intention from the start was to serve in the reserve military while he worked as a teacher. He received in 1994 a master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

He grew up in Rochester and is a Lourdes High School graduate.

He was a student-teacher at Hopkins High School in 1990. He was a substitute teacher at various schools in the Twin Cities and Rochester. He was a social studies teacher and a campus supervisor at Willow Creek Junior High School in Rochester from 1992 to 1994. He taught social studies at Dover Eyota High School in Eyota from 1994 to 2000. While there, he also helped students raise funds for trips to Washington, D.C., and escorted them.

Meanwhile, he was commanding soldiers in the Guard. This made him more comfortable with a leadership role and so he decided to enter the field of school administration.

In 2000 he became principal at Pepin High School in Pepin, Wis.

From 1999 to 2004 Funk studied at the University of Minnesota until he received his doctor of education in educational policy and administration.

He became superintendent at the BOLD School District in Olivia in 2005.

Here are some achievements from BOLD Funk lists on his resume:

Implemented all-day everyday kindergarten for all in ’06-07.

Expanded college credit options from 3 to 24 credits.

Introduced “results-oriented focus” with NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) testing.

Increased diverse opportunities by joining the West Central Integration Collaborative as a voluntary partner.

Adopted Olweus bullying curriculum in fall ’05.

Updated high school with 32 cameras and a security system.

Active participant in a $1 million federal safe schools grant with 13 other school districts in west central Minnesota.

Passed $700 per pupil operating levy in Nov ’06 63 percent to 37 percent.

Developed a healthy fund balance for BOLD School District.

Fully updated antiquated computer labs throughout the district.

Funk said the first challenge at Albert Lea will be “getting to know the people, getting to know the system and getting to know the issues.”

Between now and his start date of July 1, he hopes “to be doing a lot of communication” with Superintendent Dave Prescott, who retires June 30, and meanwhile helping the BOLD School District’s next superintendent transition into the job.