August 31, 2023 at 1:31 p.m.
Dietz excited for school year to start as Chisago Lakes’ new superintendent
Chisago Lakes’ search for a new superintendent earlier this year led them to Brian Dietz, and now Dietz is hoping to lead Chisago Lakes to new heights, including passing a new levy in the fall.
Dietz, who started in July and took over for Dean Jennissen, is looking forward to having kids back in the building and getting the district on track.
Dietz is a 50 year old father of four with his wife, Stacie. His oldest son, Ethan, is a senior at North Dakota State University. His second son Evan, is a junior at Liberty University. His daughter, Brooklyn, is a high school senior, and he didn’t think it was fair to pull her out of her school for her last year, so she’s remained up north with Stacie until the school year is out. But, Dietz’ youngest son Ryan is going into sixth grade and is starting in the Chisago Lakes school district this fall.
Over a decade of superintendent experience
Dietz comes with a boatload of superintendent experience, something recent superintendents at Chisago Lakes have lacked. The Montgomery, Minnesota native, began his career in education as a middle school English teacher, principal and then superintendent in California for 12 years.
It was there he met his wife, who also happened to be from Minnesota. “It’s funny. We both had to fly a couple thousand miles away from home to meet each other,” he said of Stacie.
The couple decided they wanted to raise their children in Minnesota, so after years in the breezy, palm-tree filled beaches of Southern California, Dietz and his family moved back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where he became the superintendent at Waseca for nearly three years. Dietz then moved on to Centennial School District, the 32nd biggest in Minnesota (about 6,750 students). He spent eight years in the district that serves Lexington, Centerville, Circle Pines and parts of Lino Lakes and Blaine.
In 2021, Dietz left Centennial to transition to lake country and took the top spot at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, before deciding to come back down south and become CL’s new superintendent this year.
Education was a calling for Dietz early in his life. He was a three sport athlete and successful student in Montgomery, and it was there he discovered the passion. “I had great teachers growing up,” he said. “Not just in the classroom, but coaches and advisors too. I thought ‘What a great job to have and influence people and grow the next generation of learners.’”
But, as he advanced in his experience and roles, he realized there was even more meaning in leading a whole district. “It’s an opportunity to make a bigger impact on a whole system,” he explained. “You can make a big impact in a classroom as a teacher, but to have the opportunity to have a bigger role and to help build, grow and develop a district is something that really drew me in.”
“I can do this because of what Chisago Lakes Schools did for me”
As far as his long term vision for the district, Dietz wants to make sure Chisago Lakes prepares students while being an integral part of the community. “For me, it’s realizing our potential that lies within us already. Just in talking to people these past few months, it’s clear people have a passion for our district and that’s really neat,” Dietz said. “We want to talk about the opportunities we do have and grow that. It’s our goal to give kids endless opportunities. When they walk away from us, I want them to have five doors and they can open any one and say, ‘I can do this because of what Chisago Lakes Schools did for me.’
“We also want to bring value to our district and to elevate the opportunities for our kids and activate experiences. We need to continue to work on that bond that connects us in our community. Building relationships, communications, and to be present and available within the community. We want to be a partner and a leader in our community.”
Dietz fancies himself a hands-on superintendent. He’ll be involved with big picture issues and day to day activities. Such is the life of a superintendent. “It’s a different opportunity every day. We work in an environment with students and adults and things are going to happen. The unknown piece is a level of excitement coming into the building every day,” Dietz relayed. “I also love the student-staff piece. I love to see our teachers inspire and engage kids to do great things. Everyone has a unique way to do it and seeing that magic happen is really fun.”
What’s in the future?
Dietz is hyper aware of the failed levy vote in 2022 and he knows it will be a tough hill to climb going back out in 2023, but as the board unveiled their questions that will be on the ballot last week, (see story in Press, August 24) Dietz noted they’ve made some major adjustments to one of the questions, cutting the financial ask by over half.
“Facility wise, we have some dire needs to address. In today’s world, the number one issue is safety and that starts with safe and secure buildings. Three of our buildings were not built for today’s educational world. Having an opportunity to close those security gaps at three buildings would be extremely important. And the middle school work really is vital. The third floor of that building was not built for that capacity,” he explained. “But, more importantly, Dietz emphasized that there are no luxuries in the facility question that will be on the ballot, and he thinks that’s important for community members to know. “Addressing critical needs is vital for our success. We are not looking to create any new structures or the Taj Mahal’s of the future. We’re trying to address what we have and live within our environment.”
As for the operational question on the ballot this fall, Dietz emphasized the importance of keeping and attracting great staff. “We have a gap at our middle school where we don’t have a full program at the sixth grade level. Making that final investment really gives us that whole K-12 look to offer the full environment for kids,” he said. “And in this day in age, workforce and pipeline is an issue. Retaining and recruiting really good people is vital to the success of this district, especially when you talk about all the things we specialize in. Research is showing that the teacher profession is in trouble over the next 10 years. We need to provide opportunities for teachers to say ‘I want to go there and stay there. Why would I not want to go there?’”
There will be some great days for Dietz, and there will be some challenging days ahead, but he’s hoping that his positive, upbeat style and father figure personality will help keep some of those challenges at bay. “I think this is a really great school district and community,” he concluded. “And I think there’s some really great things we can do here.”