Back to School 2022

Area students start heading back to school this week and next.

First Day of School at Harrison Elementary.mp4
Families arrive at Harrison Elementary School for the first day of school in 2019.
Dispatch file photo

Aitkin Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6 (7-12), Friday, Sept. 9 (Pre-K-6).

Estimated enrollment: 1,035.

New teachers/administrators: Garrett Tetrick, business; Rocco DiPaolo, agriculture; Jason Oestreich, industrial technology; Taylor Meeks, instrumental teacher; Kelly Blake, choir; Lisa DeMars, high school principal; Jim Henrickson, dean of students; Jeri Forbord, seventh grade English; Craig Larson, special education; Molly Oestreich, special education; Dan Krueger, special education; Nathan Ehnstrom, long-term substitute in chemistry and family and consumer science; Lucy Swanson, elementary music; Jared McCoy, long-term substitute in second grade.

Brainerd Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Estimated enrollment: 6,289.


New admins/certified staff: Jill Bjorge, Riverside principal; Candace Burckhardt, director of equity and student services; Josh Fordyce, assistant high school activities director; Derek Hendrickson, assistant principal at Forestview; Kathy Johnson, principal at Lowell; Christina Lundgren, director of instructional technology; Isaac Smieja, assistant principal at Forestview; Thomas Adornetto, English as a second language; Blake Alholm, first grade at Baxter; Katrine Atkinson, third grade at Garfield; Ally Bright, third grade at Garfield; Anne Campion, first grade at Lowell, Pamala Clontz, special education at BHS; Emily Creelman, special education at Forestview; Lauren Crenna, special education at Forestview; Sarah Dano, language arts at Forestview; Kelsey Deutz, Title 1 at Riverside; Tiffany Gilb, special education at Baxter; Katie Gobler Anderson, counselor at BHS; Miranda Graceffa, science at Forestview; Madeline Hastings, emotional/behavioral disorder teacher at Riverside; Chloe Hawks, kindergarten at Garfield; Anna Hodenfield, speech language pathologist; Cheryl Houde, special education at Lincoln Education Center; Lori House, special education at BHS; Amanda Imgrund, special education at Baxter; Emily Isackson, special education at BHS; Jerremiah Johnson, special education at Forestview; Megan Johnson, fourth grade at Nisswa; Claudia Keller, speech language pathologist; Jason Leonard, physical education at Riverside; Natalia Lynch, school psychologyist at Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative; Kristen Maas-Gotti, English at BHS; Emma Peterson, kindergarten at Nisswa; Amanda Reyes, special education at Riverside; Alexis Roering, special education at Riverside; Taylor Salisbury, kindergarten at Lowell; Alaine Sandberg, specieal education coordinator at Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative; Kristin Schauffhauer, early childhood and family parent educator at early learning center; Deborah Schlueter, science at Forestview; Jessie Shepherd, social studies at BHS; Melissa Shepherd, fourth grade at Baxter, Bobby Solarz, special education at Lincoln; Megan Strong, first grade at Garfield; Sandra Tautges, physical education at Baxter; Hannah True, first grade at Riverside; Kyston Wiseley, choir at Forestview; Katelyn Zeroth, special education at Lincoln.

Crosby-Ironton Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Estimated enrollment: 1,000.

New teachers/administrators: Allison Brisk, math; Emma Ditlevson, family and consumer science; Sheri Pickar, math; Candace Hoff, special education; Carrie Cain, preschool; Jenni Kannel, preschool; Cassidy Fort, elementary; Laura Welch, special education; Kirsten Harris, English; Marcy Stout, physical education; Jenna Irving, Title 1; Danielle Hillsdale, elementary; Rebecca Pecha, social studies; Jennifer Sutch, special education; Emily Cencer, special education; Hannah Rolschau, elementary; Becky Stabenow, special education; Tiffany Hallin, nurse; Abby Geotz, community education.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: The school district recently completed Phase Three of its multi-phase renovation projects at the elementary and high school. This past summer, the elementary school media center received a major face-lift, and every grade-level pod at the elementary school now has modern classrooms with flexible learning spaces and seating options. There is a new $250,000 science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics laboratory for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

At the high school level there is a new commons area, a google-plex space for students and an updated media center.

Crosslake Community School

First day of school: Thursday, Sept. 1.

Estimated enrollment: 177.


New teachers/staff: Lisa Laasch, middle school science; Kevin O'Brien, middle school math; Joe Cutkay, first and second grades; Laurie Jost, special education; Beth Duffy, office staff; Kelly Bittner; office staff; Stephanie Pederson, paraprofessional; Jake Moser, custodian.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: The school has a new lending library, keeping with the environmental education focus, where students can check out and donate books. Also new this year is the clothes closet, with students able to borrow or keep clothing as needed.

The school also has an updated and expanded parking area.

Crosslake Community School received Level One Certification as a High Reliability School this year.

Little Falls Community Schools

First day of school: Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Estimated enrollment: 2,335.

New teachers/administrators: Greg Johnson, superintendent; Amanda Sleen, language arts; Allison Bullard, counselor; Elisa Sypnieski, social worker; Taryn Czech, second grade; Allissa Lester, social worker; Mara Roberts, first grade; Austin Fenske, teacher; Brett Czajkowski, teacher; Lindsey Baum, social worker; Isaac Thomas, teacher; Nate Swenson, principal; April Elke, teacher, Nicklos Czech, teacher; Shae Edgerton, social worker; Garnet Mayo, teacher; Michelle Schultz, special education; Mary Kay Lindmeier, payroll clerk; Nicole Henry, special education; Karissa Tessier, early childhood special education; Emily Peterson, dean of students; Dustin Parker, art; Kermit Klefsaas, English; April Slipy, special education; Megan Hennen, math; Leah Roske, assistant principal; Jared Kalal, social studies; Megan Hintz, counselor; Katrina Holman, social emotional learning and wellness; Jon Thompson, career and technical education; Kristine Monson, special education; Wendy Petrich, special education; Alicia Czech, early childhood special education; Jamie Anderson, PCA/EP.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: The district welcomes Greg Johnson as the new superintendent.


Pequot Lakes Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Estimated enrollment: 1,800.

New teachers/administrators: Bryan Boreen, high school earth science; Abelein Dunn, elementary special education; Clayton Foster, high school physical education; Melissa Hannah, fourth grade; Ashley Ingman, elementary social worker; Heidi Knudsen, fifth grade; Cory Kralovetz, elementary special education; Erin Linehan, high school English/language arts; Emily Monson, middle and high school special education; Tiffany Montgomery, high school secretary; Travis Raske, director of teaching and learning; Amanda Sigler, speech language pathologist; Amanda Trinka, middle school special education; Jeremy Weiland, high school social studies.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: The school district is currently performing a comprehensive facilities study. There will be six community meetings this fall to gather input from students, staff and community members.

Pierz Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6 (1-12), Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 12-13 (preschool and kindergarten).

Estimated enrollment: 1,250.

New staff: Fourteen new teachers, a new counselor, additional support staff and the addition of an assistant principal to support students and staff in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: The district is in the process of remodeling and upgrading the information technology department into a dedicated work space for new technology like laser engravers and printers. It will also serve as space for welding, wood shop, greenhouse and landscaping, electrical, cement and plumbing classes.


A new ninth grade elective in the family and consumer science department will focus on teaching healthy habits related to eating and nutrition, sleeping, family dynamics and some day-to-day skills such as money and time management.

Pillager Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Estimated enrollment: 1,250.

New teachers/administrators: Matt Soberg, business teacher; Jenny Carlson, speech language pathologist; Jeremy Frank, elementary special education; Megan Trout, high school English; Pal Clark, physical education and high school football coach; Chris Kappler, long-term substitute teacher and middle school football coach; Leah Sparks, elementary special education; Liz Benson, elementary social worker/counselor; Kelsey Rom, speech language pathology assistant; Sadie Jordan, first grade; Tracy Frisk, early childhood administrative assistant; Emily Anderson, special education.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: The district’s updated athletic complex will include new bleachers and press box to seat 700 people; several updates to the baseball and softball fields and paved pathways to be compliant with American with Disabilities Act compliant.

A new teacher mentor program will have new teachers working alongside with teacher mentors throughout the school year.

The high school will begin the freshman academy this fall, with the four components being personal finance, health, career investigation and world cultures.

Pine River-Backus Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.


Estimated enrollment: 910.

New teachers/staff: Andrew Moore, high school special education; Neil Travis, high school industrial technology; Brianna Blanchard, high school English; Nicholas Ackerman, fifth and sixth grade math; Janice Weaver, van driver; Diondra Gottsch, high school special education; Karl Ludeman, high school teacher; Olivia Becker, high school youth and family services; Gregory Gentry, high school English; Darla John, nurse; Courtney Benson, elementary science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics; Ariana Schendel, high school interventionist; Roger Hoplin, paraprofessional; Cassandra Meis, paraprofessional Crystal Sams, van driver; Erik Vetsch, high school social studies.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: With a teacher mentor program, each new teacher is provided a mentor to offer additional help. The district established a committee to take a look at new teacher programming and make adjustments to areas that needed to be strengthened.

The district also launched a new marketing and branding campaign to show PR-B pride. Updated orange and black colors throughout the school bring a fresh new look to the facilities. The commons area has new colors, a history display and an interactive TV monitor. More changes are yet to come.

St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Estimated enrollment: 245.

New teachers/administrators: Carla Coonan, director of advancement and admissions; Jaime Boesen, middle school math; Mara Williams, second grade; Liz Scofield, first grade; Cassara Tideman, first grade.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: There will be one additional first grade classroom, and St. Francis will welcome more than 40 new families.


Staples-Motley Public Schools

First day of school: Thursday, Sept. 8 (1-12), Monday, Sept. 12 (pre-K and kindergarten).

Estimated enrollment: 951.

New teachers/administrators: Debbie Ferdon, middle and high school principal; Allen Berg, elementary principal; Jordan Walz, nutritional services director; Tanley Lego, business manager; Norby Klimek, transportation director; Jamie Pearson, dean of students; Cindy Denning, nurse; Drew Potter, resource management and economics; Emily Dewes, elementary music; Courtney Lisson, school readiness; Jorie Ihme, school readiness; Jocelyn Anderson, Earth science; Emily Benson; kindergarten; Natasha Peden, middle and high school special education; Jeff Sterriker, industrial arts, wood shop and computer-aided design; Erin Judd, middle and high school special education; Deanna Anderson, middle and high school physical education; Katrina Fligge, second grade; Staci Schultz, middle school English; Alina Robinson, middle school English; Kelsie Weite, elementary special education; Jim Jackson, middle and high school resources; Natalie Tkalcich, high school English; John Holman, middle and high school special education; Jerry Freese, welding and machining.

Anything new/exciting/different happening: Updates to the district this year include a newly renovated elementary school, expansion of school readiness program, a new makerspace in the elementary school and a special open house for fifth and sixth graders.

Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Estimated enrollment: 1,050.

New teachers/administrators: Kristin Schock, pre-kindergarten; Missy Stevens, pre-kindergarten; Brooklyn Huttunen, elementary special education; Angie Donnay, elementary special education; Summer Hagensick, third grade; Carly Carkhuff, third grade; Robert Brostrom, transportation director.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.

Hi, I'm the Brainerd Dispatch. I started working a few days before Christmas in 1881 and became a daily paper two years later. I've gone through a lot of changes over the years, but what has never changed is my commitment to community and to local journalism. I've got an entire team of dedicated people who work night and day to make sure I go out every morning, whether in print, as an e-edition, via an app or with additional information at News, weather, sports — videos, photos, podcasts and social media — all covering stories from central Minnesota about your neighbors, your lakes, your communities, your challenges and your opportunities. It's all part of the effort to keep people connected and informed. And we couldn't do it without support.
What To Read Next
Get Local