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First 6 months have been busy for DL Superintendent Froke

Six months into his first year as superintendent at Detroit Lakes Public Schools, Doug Froke said he's settled in and pretty busy.

"We've been busy, there's no question about that," he said. "We've had issues that have certainly taken some resources and some time, and that's just part of the nature of running the school district."

The biggest adjustment for Froke was going from a district of 1,000 to one over twice as large. He credits the ease of that adjustment to his staff; whose talent and expertise were critical.

"The people I work closely with have to be talented, and they are," he said. "You learn that those folks are hired to do a job and we're fortunate enough that the folks I work closely with really do exemplary work."

In that line, bringing in new technology, such as the interactive white boards, was a group effort, after identifying money in the budget that could accommodate purchasing the technology.

"I had seen other districts buying them. I knew what kind of an impact it could have on the classroom," he said.

He opened a discussion with principals and technology staff about getting the Smart Boards and then moved on to getting teachers involved. There are now 25 interactive white boards in the district, one at the administrative building and 24 in classrooms throughout the district.

"You just see things in other districts, we had the available dollars to make something happen, and we just put it in motion," Froke said.

The district will probably purchase more Smart Boards in the next fiscal year, he said. Interest in the boards, and enthusiasm from the students, is helping drive that forward.

"It sounds like the enthusiasm from other staff is ramping up and it looks like it's catching on and it's good for kids," he said.

Froke said another factor that helped him adjust to working in the district was the date when he started, Aug. 30.

The slower time of the year for the superintendent and the school board is usually the beginning of the school year because the budgets are set, the projects are usually done, and most of the large-scale hiring for the school year has been completed.

"I thought it would be a good time to enter into a new district. That proved to be partly the case," he said.

"It gave me the opportunity to get out and about, meet some of the staff, and meet some community people, and it seemed to be a good, positive springboard toward helping me adjust in a new position."

Froke said one of the parts of his job as the superintendent is to be a link for the school to the community, and from the community to the school. Understanding what is going on in the community is an important part of his job, he said.

"We know that our school system is a player or has a seat at the table, when it comes to all issues surrounding the development of Detroit Lakes as a community," he said.

"It's kind of fun to be part of "Capital for a Day" or watch the development of the Gateway district and how we play a role in the Highway 10 project," Froke added.

Keeping an eye on the future, in the community and in the schools, is something Froke is determined to do. One of the biggest steps in the district since he began is working on remodeling the current strategic plan, which shapes the direction of the district.

Froke said it is the charge of the superintendent and the staff, to carry that vision forward for the district.

"Folks really want direction, and they want a vision and the district to have a place to go," he said.

The school board has approved a contract with Big River Consulting to revitalize the district's strategic plan, starting in April.

"That's a big step. Whatever we can do, in the short-term, to enhance the learning of our kids, like the Smart Board, we'll do where we can," he said.

"But the big thing is trying to make sure we're always looking big picture--what do we want Detroit Lakes kids to look like when they graduate from high school? And I think we've taken a step in that direction to define and answer that question."