The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Wakefield-Marenisco board rates superintendent 4 out of 4


June 21, 2019


Wakefield — It’s been a year now since Jason Gustafson took on the role of superintendent for the Wakefield-Marenisco School District, and he’s pleased that board of education members have given him an overall rating of 4 out of 4, or “highly effective.”

“I think the year went really well,” said the superintendent in an interview in his office this week.

Board members evaluated Gustafson after a closed session on Monday evening, during which they rated and discussed the following five categories: 1. student achievement, 2. students having the opportunity to learn critical content, 3. teacher evaluations, 4. involving teachers in decision-making, and 5. a safe school environment.

Gustafson said he provided a self-evaluation to board members before they engaged in their own scrutiny of his work.

According to the superintendent, student status is always a key component in evaluations. “The state requires 25 percent of my review to come from student achievement,” he said, adding that the same is true for teacher evaluations.

Since 2015, students throughout the state have been required to undergo achievement tests each year through the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, known as M-STEP.

In order to prepare local kids for that, Gustafson said his teachers administer throughout the school year eight pre- and post-tests, which help to gauge whether students are learning the materials presented.

In addition, said Gustafson, “We have after-school tutoring on Tuesday and Thursday, and that’s free to any students (K-12) who want to come.”

Some students also work during the school day with one full-time or two part-time Title 1 teachers.

Beyond that, said Gustafson, he has frequent staff meetings with teachers to assure that everyone is clear on expectations.

Learning critical content is a related issue of learning that has increased in importance at all levels of education.

As such, Gustafson said teachers try to introduce their students to as varied a content as they can, but the reality is that government requirements in recent years have put such a strong emphasis on core subjects that the opportunity to take electives is “pretty much gone.”

Even so, he said, online learning systems available at the school do allow students to sign up for any additional course they please, and if time does not allow official enrollment in an elective interest, they still at least “can dabble” in new ideas.

In terms of overall student learning, Gustafson said “good relationships with the teachers” go a long way in students having the incentive to learn beyond the basics.

“I think the teachers are doing a fantastic job,” he said.

In terms of teacher evaluations, Gustafson said he administers at least two formal evaluations of each employee per year. For those occasions, teachers send their lesson plans in advance, and Gustafson spends an entire period observing the targeted classroom.

In addition, he said, “I try to get in each classroom at least once per week.” Even if those visits are just a couple minutes, he said, it still helps him to maintain a connection with all members of the classroom.

The superintendent said he also encourages teachers to be involved in decision-making by asking each of them to choose to participate in school committees on health, curriculum, safety, and student growth.

“If they have the ownership, they’re going to take more pride in our school,” he said.

According to Gustafson, a safe school environment involves several layers of defense. The school now has technological barriers such as security cameras and a controlled keyless entry system at all doors.

Beyond that, he said the Michigan State Police, as well as the entire school staff, have an ongoing place in ever-evolving school safety.

Although Gustafson, who once worked as a banker, said it’s always nice to have more money, he believes the district has a sound financial system.

“Tina’s excellent with that,” he said of business manager Tina Trevarthen. “We’re pretty much on the same page. We want to get what the students need, but we don’t want to overspend.”

He concluded that working closely with former superintendent Catherin Shamion in the 2018-2019 year certainly helped him to learn the basics of his new position. Ever since then, he’s had plenty of day-by-day learning, during which he said he strives to step back before making a decision to “consider the consequences for everyone involved.”

Gustafson, who formerly was a third grade teacher at the school, said he sometimes misses teaching but added that he still has opportunities to “be engaged with the kids.”

For instance, during the school year, he ended each day at the bus stop, saying good-by to all the students.


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