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Verndale school board addresses large number of personnel changes

Photo by Brian Hansel Incoming 5-12 Principal Thomas Riitters, left, and Verndale School Board Member Denise Bramer, right shared a laugh over Superintendent Paul Brownlow's comments at the District 818 school board meeting Monday night in Verndale.

Tom Riitters was targeted for some good-natured kidding Monday night as he sat in on the June board meeting of District 818.

Riitters officially joins the Verndale school system July 1 as their 5-12 principal. The former Little Falls teacher and administrator will take over a position held by Justin Sperling, who is going to an administrative job in Motley after serving District 818 as a coach, a teacher, a dean of students and a principal. Sperling was the K-12 principal at Verndale. Brownlow will be handling the K-4 principal's position this fall.

The source of Monday night's joking was a plethora of personnel changes at Verndale and a lot of openings - some of which Riitters was kiddingly asked to consider filling himself.

In addition to Riitters, the district will have a new kindergarten teacher (Jessica Miller), a new third grade teacher (Rachel Johnson), a K-12 EBD teacher (Katherine Ervasti), a new science teacher (Tracy Hegarty), a new part-time Spanish teacher (Skyla Hubert), and a new part-time music teacher (Jenna Robertson).

Sandie Cottrell resigned her position as a regular morning route bus driver to accept a full time position in the system at the Computer Applications Help Desk. Cottrell intends to continue serving as a bus driver for extracurricular events.

The district also lost the services of extracurricular substitute bus driver Jim Bergquist, who has taken a position with the city of Moorhead.

Third grade teacher Kali Matthiesen resigned to take an elementary teaching job in the Wadena-Deer Creek system.

Susan Estabrooks-Anderson, who has been coordinator of the Verndale Preschool Plus program, tendered her resignation in order to devote her full attention to Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Head Start.

Roxanne Nelson has decided to retire from her position as confidential administration secretary/payroll. Nelson, who has been with the district for more than 19 years, will train a replacement but will be taking her earned vacation and other time off before her effective retirement date of Jan. 15, 2012.

The Verndale board will not hold a meeting in July but they did schedule a retreat for July 25 to give Riitters their thoughts of where the district wishes to go.

Riitters graduated from St. John's University in 1996 with a bachelor's degree. He received his master's degree in education from St. Mary's University in 2002 and his administrative license in 2005.

Riitters has been the Little Falls Community Middle School dean of students since 2006. He also held the position of middle school activities director for three years. His teaching experience included three years as an elementary instructor in Brainerd and seven years as a science and elementary teacher in Little Falls.