and the community has experienced immense change and maybe even some uncertainty with four new lead principals in the last four years.
The most recent educator to take up the position, is no stranger to the community, students or the building. to the Richfield Public Schools district after a one-year stint in as a principal of a Wayzata elementary school. Prior to , he spent two years as principal at School and five years before that as an assistant principal at the high school.
Wenschlag sat down with Richfield Patch to talk about his reasons for returning, new goals and his hopes for the community.
Richfield Patch: Why did you decide to return to Richfield?
Jason Wenschlag: Where do I start? I think that the biggest piece for me was for so long my personal life and my professional life were very integrated. I didn’t realize that was so important to me until I left. [When I was working in Richfield], I was able to go home and have dinner with my wife and easily come back for a school event. My work and home were so close together and then you go to commuting 30 to 40 minutes each way. It was a big change.
The second thing is that I love Richfield. ... It gets in your blood. And it takes time to develop a connectedness [with a school and a community]. As the year went on [in Wayzata] I found I was performing a job and I was doing the best I could, but I did not have that personal connection and personal fulfillment that I did at Richfield.
Thirdly, I saw it as another challenge and an opportunity to have an impact on community that I felt needed a strong leader. ... I feel like this is where I belong right now.
Richfield Patch: The community has seen four principals come and go over the last four years. , yet here we are together. What do you want to say to that?
Wenschlag: I think I know what you're asking. ... I never say I’m going to be any place for the rest of my career. I think the reality is that nowadays—and this is just a general statement—people are always looking for opportunities. And, honestly, we need to teach kids that they are going to have three to five different careers and maybe three to five different jobs within those careers.
But, personally I can’t go through a principal change in the near future. It’s too stressful. ... It’s too hard on me and too hard on my wife. I really enjoy being a principal and I want sustain some results and follow through with my work for a long time.
I left once, and went to what some perceive as a very strong school district, but I'm back and I'm not going to jeopardize this opportunity to make a sustainable difference.
Richfield Patch: What is one of the biggest challenges you and the school will face this year?
Wenschlag: Four principals in four years is tough to handle. The challenge with having that much change is community members may question what is happening at the high school and they may lose faith in what we’re doing at the high school. ... My priority is to restore a little faith in the community. We need to brand ourselves, if you will. We need to get out into the community and let people know we are doing some good things here and we need their support and partnership. ...
The Richfield schools are a fabulous place for kids to be raised in and to learn in. ... We’re rich in culture, we're rich in relationships and we help [students] achieve their dreams. Do we have challenges? Absolutely. What school district doesn't? But, if I was a parent, I wouldn't hesitate to have my child [enrolled here].
Richfield Patch: What are some of the things you're focusing on this year?
Wenschlag: One thing is that we're really trying to enhance and establish a culture of reading, which is something that began last year. ... These days reading has just taken on a different form, but we still want our kids to be good readers.
We are also really focusing on our ninth-graders. ... Forty-five person of our ninth-graders failed on or more classes last year. That effects whether they are on track to graduate. We will have one adult that will have a sort of case load, if you will. He will be tracking how they are doing throughout the year and we will also have some extended day programs to help.
[In general], we want to communicate and interact with learning targets. ... For years we just assumed that kids would pick up on what they would learn. Teachers would say, "This is what we’re going to do today." But [those things] are activities. I want teachers to say, "By the time you leave my class, this is what you’re going to know how to do."