WAO’s Bratlie named District 31 Administrator of the Year
He’s already tried to retire a couple of times before, but Detroit Lakes native Ron Bratlie says that when he leaves his position as superintendent of Warren-Alvarado-Oslo Schools this June, it’s going to stick.
“My wife has told me, ‘This is the last time you’re going to retire,’” he says with a laugh. “She’s got a ‘honey do’ list waiting for me, so I need to get back to working on that again.”
And he’ll be leaving on a high note too: Bratlie was just chosen as Administrator of the Year for District 31 by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA).
He’ll officially receive the award at the MASA Region 8 meeting on June 6. Region 8, located in the northwest corner of the state, includes four districts comprised of 45 schools.
Bratlie’s position with WAO Schools was supposed to be an 8 month interim position; by the time he officially retires in June, it will have lasted 20 months.
But he says it will be the final chapter in an educational career that has spanned almost five decades, since his graduation from Moorhead State University in 1966.
“I’ve been approached to do some consulting in the energy conservation field, so I might do that part time,” Bratlie says.
But the rest of his time will be spent enjoying the home he shares with wife Gina on Lake Eunice; working on his favorite hobby, rebuilding cars, and various do-it-yourself projects; and trying to improve his golf game, which he jokingly infers may be a lost cause.
“I do some golfing, but I’m a hacker,” he says. “I grew up in Detroit Lakes, born and raised on a farm where the Forest Hills golf course is now — but it didn’t make me a better golfer.”
After graduating from Moorhead State with a degree in mathematics, Bratlie took his first job as a teacher in Flint, Mich. “I was there during the Flint riots,” he says. “It was a scary time.”
Bratlie lived and taught mathematics in Flint from 1966 to 1971, then decided to start working on his master’s degree.
“I got an opportunity to be a math teacher and advisor at Comstock, a smaller district near Kalamazoo, Mich.,” he says.
While he was teaching there, he also worked on earning a master’s degree in mathematics from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. Eventually, he also earned a master’s in education administration from EMU as well.
“I finished my administration degree and came back to Minnesota,” Bratlie says. “I’d had enough of Michigan, with all the issues they were having, and I had an opportunity to come back to Minnesota and get into (school) administration, so I took it.”
He started working as a high school principal in the Twin Valley school district in 1972. During his three years there, Bratlie also finished his specialist degree in education administration.
“I thought I knew all the answers, so I decided to be a superintendent,” Bratlie joked. “I learned my lesson there. I learned real fast how much I didn’t know.”
Bratlie spent three years as superintendent at Milroy, a small school district near Marshall in southwest Minnesota.
“The last year I was there, I was also superintendent at Storden-Jeffers,” he says. “That was an interesting experience.”
Bratlie then took a job as superintendent at another small school district, Truman, where he would spend seven years before moving back to his hometown and accepting a position as superintendent of the Audubon school district.
“I was superintendent of both Audubon and Lake Park when they started pairing and sharing,” he says, adding that he continued there until 1994, a few years before the districts consolidated permanently.
It was also during this time that Bratlie earned his doctorate in educational administration.
“In 1994, I went to Elk River as an assistant superintendent, and I was there until 2007 — when I retired for the first time,” Bratlie says. “At Elk River, my main job was to build schools. They built $250 million worth of schools while I was there.
“That was a fun job — the best job I’ve every had.”
While at Elk River, Bratlie had the opportunity to build the first “green” school in Minnesota.
“We had the first building in Minnesota certified as a LEED (Leaderwship in Energy and Environmental Design) building. We ended up winning a couple of awards for it.”
The project was “quite impressive for its time,” he added, noting that the lessons he learned working on constructing energy efficient schools led to him being asked to make presentations to architects, engineers and state school officials across the U.S.
“That was really fun — I got to travel a lot,” Bratlie says. “I made over 65 presentations nationwide on construction of energy efficient schools.”
After retiring from Elk River, Bratlie’s expertise in energy efficient construction led to starting his own company, ABC (Administration, Business & Construction) Educational Consulting.
“Then I worked for the Osseo school district as an energy efficiency coordinator for two years,” he continued. “My charge was to save $1 million in energy costs over two years, which we did.
“I retired for the second time at Osseo, then got a call from Northland Community Schools to take an interim job in 2010-11, because their superintendent had left.”
After finishing out the year at Northland, he retired again — until he got the call to take another interim position with Warren-Alvarado-Oslo.
“I’ve been there for a year and a half — it was supposed to be seven months.”
This time, however, he means it when he says, “I’m done in June.”
One thing he won’t miss is the long commute from his lake home in Detroit Lakes to his job in Warren. He and Gina have no intention of leaving Detroit Lakes anytime soon.
“The lake is our home,” Bratlie says. “My wife is from Michigan, and she even likes it here, so I think we’re staying.”
Their two children, Matthew and Kari, “spend as much time here as they possibly can,” even though Matthew is busy completing his graduate degree at Augsburg College, and Kari works as an assistant bank manager in St. Cloud.
The first time he and Gina thought about selling their home on Lake Eunice, their children, Matthew and Kari, protested vociferously.
“I think this lake house will be in our family for a long time,” he says.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.