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Dahlstrom looks ahead as term comes to a close

District 2155 Superintendent Dr. Virginia Dahlstrom will leave Wadena/Deer Creek Schools at the end of this school year, she said Nov. 14. Photo by Zach Kayser

District 2155 Superintendent Dr. Virginia Dahlstrom will leave Wadena/Deer Creek Schools at the end of this school year, she said Nov. 14.

After five years of Dahlstrom serving as superintendent under two consecutive contracts, she declined a third stint as head of District 2155. Dahlstrom said although it may appear odd that she is leaving after such a brief term at WDC, shorter tenures for superintendents are actually quite common in the field.

"Typically, what happens is that superintendents are hired to do certain things, and when your job is done, it's done," she explained.

Dahlstrom also said her contract negotiations two years ago included language that had her retiring from the post at the end of this school year, but she remains unsure whether or not she wants to retire from education completely after she leaves WDC.

School Board Chair Steve Techam said the board wanted Dahlstrom to stay on as superintendent.

"We wanted her to come back," he said.

Techam said when Dahlstrom's second contract was being negotiated, school board members tried to get her to sign a three-year contract rather than one lasting for two years, but Dahlstrom turned the longer contract down.

Following news of her departure, Techam was unsure of Dahlstrom's future plans.

"I assume she'd like to retire or do other things ... I know she likes it in Wadena," he said.

During her time as superintendent, Dahlstrom oversaw efforts to pass a major levy referendum in support of additional school funding in 2009, as well as the rebuilding of the WDC Middle/High School building, after it was destroyed in the massive 2010 tornado that moved through Wadena.

WDC Middle/High School Principal Tyler Church had positive things to say about the superintendent, highlighting her trusting and dynamic managerial style, as well as her actions during the post-tornado rebuilding period.

"I don't think there would have been a better person to lead us through it," he said.

Church predicted Dahlstrom would likely stay in the educational field.

"She's got too much energy to retire completely, I believe," Church said.

Dahlstrom originally grew up in Saint Croix Falls, Wis., and first became interested in education while she attended college at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls. After she graduated from UW with a teaching degree, Dahlstrom went on to teach in Burnsville, while pursuing her administrative degrees at the same time.

Dahlstrom made the switch from teaching to administrative work after her friends saw that she was doing much of the kinds of tasks involved with administration anyway, and encouraged her to change her career path while she was at Burnsville. She went on to receive her master's degree from what is now Minnesota State University, Mankato, and her doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

In the years immediately before Dahlstrom's arrival to Wadena, she had been teaching with her husband in South Korea and Egypt, but returned to the U.S. after her granddaughter was born. Dahlstrom taught for a year at MSU, Mankato before moving to Wadena. She said her favorite part of being superintendent here was working with the people of Wadena.

"It's a heartfelt place ... the people here are sincere, they're kind, they're hardworking, they're loving."

As for advice to her successor, Dahlstrom had the wellbeing of the school in mind.

"You've got a great school, great people to work with. Don't let them down," she said.