Weber takes Waubun superintendent position
At each phase of her 22-year career with the Detroit Lakes School District, Lisa Weber says, she’s been fortunate enough to truly love her job.
From her beginnings as a school counselor, to getting an opportunity to establish the district’s Alternative Learning Center (ALC), to spending the last year as interim principal of Detroit Lakes High School, Weber adds, “I’ve loved everything I’ve done.”
And now, as she prepares to ease on down Highway 59 to become the new superintendent of the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth District at the end of this month, she says she is doing so “with very mixed emotions.”
“I’m sad to leave the people — the students, the staff — but I’m so excited for the opportunity,” Weber said. “I’m ready for district administration. You get to the point in your career when you’re ready to have a bigger impact.”
After unsuccessfully applying for a district administrative position a little closer to home, Weber learned that Brandon Lunak was planning to leave his position as Waubun superintendent at the end of the school year.
This time, her application met with success. Though her position with the Detroit Lakes district won’t officially end until June 30, the transition has already begun.
“I’ve been shadowing the current superintendent, helping with some of the hires, attending board meetings and getting involved with some of the decision making,” Weber said.
At the same time, she’s been wrapping up her principal’s duties at both the high school and ALC.
“It feels like a whirlwind,” Weber said of the transition process. “The learning curve has been very high.”
At the same time, she’s never been one to shirk from a challenge.
“I’ve always had a passion for being able to identify students’ needs and create programming to meet those needs,” Weber said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a career doing that.”
While she enjoyed her eight years as a school counselor, she said she had been looking at a job in community counseling when the superintendent asked her if she’d like the chance to create a new Alternative Learning Center for the district.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” Weber said. “I knew there was a need for it… at the time we only had an ALP (Alternative Learning Program) serving a small number of students.”
Under Weber’s leadership, the new ALC was expanded to serve students from kindergarten through high school age, not just in Detroit Lakes, but surrounding communities as well.
Its purpose, as stated in the ALC’s informational brochure, is “to develop educational programs for students who are ‘at-risk’ of not graduating from a traditional educational program.”
“We have multiple programs at multiple sites, and serve over 2,000 kids a year, K-12,” Weber said.
For students in grades K-8, the ALC offers what is called “targeted services,” which Weber says involves preventive programming “for students who are experiencing small bumps in the road that may become obstacles to achieving their academic goals.”
In other words, it hopefully “prevents intervention programming being needed further down the road,” she added.
Those “targeted services” could involve anything from improving test scores in certain academic areas, to developing a student’s social skills, to helping them with certain behavioral problems.
“It’s targeted to serve a broad range of students,” she said, adding, “About 70 percent of all these kids could qualify for targeted services.”
At the high school level, the ALC offers everything from a seat-based instruction program to a Teen-Age Parent Program and Partners in Parenting.
In addition, the ALC also operates one of four active Recovery School programs still available in the state. Weber attributes part of that to the fact that the Detroit Lakes Recovery School program has a unique “school within a school” format, which helps it to maintain a stable funding source despite the fluctuating enrollment numbers that typify a program which serves students who are recovering from drug and alcohol dependency.
Though Weber is very proud of the growth of the ALC program under her leadership, and will definitely miss working there, she also feels that it’s time to move on to new challenges.
One of those challenges she took on this past year has been to serve as high school principal, though she opted to do so on an interim basis only.
“It would not have been fair to Detroit Lakes High School for me to have stayed,” she said, noting that she likely would not have continued to fill that post after her youngest son, Austin, graduated next year.
Oldest daughter Nikki, 25, who now lives in Coon Rapids, is also a DLHS alumni: “We moved here when she was three years old,” Weber said.
For the time being, she has no plans to relocate from Detroit Lakes, where she and husband Paul have lived for more than two decades.
“My son will be a senior here in the fall,” she said, adding that while she has always loved the Detroit Lakes community, and school district, they might consider moving a little closer to her new career home once Austin graduates.
“This was the right time for them to find a principal that was going to stay long term,” she said of her decision not to seek the DLHS principal’s position on a permanent basis. “I wanted to honor my commitment to my professional goals, and follow them through with a district-level position.”
Essentially, Weber wanted the challenge of impacting student learning on a district-wide level — a challenge that first began to interest her when she became the multi-program director for the Detroit Lakes School District.
That position allowed her to help develop the district’s new instructional coaches program and curriculum.
“When you can be making decisions, identifying needs and creating programs that have a positive impact on student learning, it’s very exciting,” she said. “In between making decisions on teacher practices I was working with teachers, other administrators and building teams a lot more — and I loved that.
“I never planned on being a superintendent, my interest just grew into being a district administrator over time.”
In her new position at Waubun, Weber said her first task will be getting to know the community, the students and staff that she will be serving.
“They’ve got some great programs in place, and they’ve started really great initiatives,” she said. “I look forward to really getting to know them, what their strengths and assets are.
“I don’t know if I found Waubun, or Waubun found me, but so far, I think it’s a good fit,” Weber added. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.