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Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel discusses mid-year self evaluation with Rochester School Board

"To Rochester's credit, we're using this year to plan, to lay the groundwork for longterm improvement," Pekel said. "We are doing our homework and trying to paint a picture of where we want to go."

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Rochester Public Schools Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel listens during public comments during a School Board meeting on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, at the Edison Administration Building in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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Almost halfway through his term as interim superintendent for Rochester Public Schools, Kent Pekel has offered some comments on his time with the district so far.

On Tuesday, Pekel submitted his mid-year self evaluation to the School Board. The board will discuss his performance next week during a closed session. His one-year contract with the district will expire at the end of June, but the board could offer him another, longer contract for the permanent position.

"I firmly believe that the community that is home to the best hospital in America can and should be home to the best school district in America," Pekel wrote in his evaluation. "I hope and believe that my work as Interim Superintendent of Schools has helped to put Rochester Public Schools on a path to achieve that vision."

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What happened: Rochester Public Schools Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel submitted his mid-year self evaluation to the School Board.

Why does it matter: Pekel has a one-year contract with the district, but the district could decide to hire him permanently. His performance during the year will impact that decision.

What's next: The School Board will have a closed session with Pekel at an upcoming meeting about his work in the district so far.


Pekel focused his review around the three goals that he developed with the school board earlier in his year-long contract.

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The goals include:

  • Lead the development of the Rochester Public Schools Strategic Action Plan to guide the work of district through 2025 school years.

  • Lead implementation of the district's Safe and Open Schools Plan to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus among students and staff while working to keep all RPS schools and programs open for in-person instruction throughout the school year.

  • Build the capacity of the new Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to coordinate implementation of the school district’s Equity Policy.

Pekel described the goals as being attainable within a one-year contract. But he also said they "lay the groundwork for long-term and sustained improvement."
Speaking about the first goal, Pekel said it's somewhat unusual to launch the development of a long-term strategic action plan when a district has an interim superintendent.

He said the district had good goals and visions in place, but lacked the roadmap for how to get there. The strategic action plan is meant to address that.

"To Rochester's credit, we're using this year to plan, to lay the groundwork for long-term improvement," Pekel said. "We are doing our homework and trying to paint a picture of where we want to go."

Regarding the second goal, Pekel said he has helped the district develop an evolving plan to keep students in school. He even described the district as the "state leader" in its COVID response. He said he believes the district is the only one in the state to have released staff and student vaccination data at the school level.

He talked about how the district has piloted the "test to stay" program at Bishop Elementary, Willow Creek Middle School and John Marshall High School in an effort to keep students out of quarantine. He also talked about how the district has made an investment in air filters throughout its buildings.

"It has saved hundreds of hours of lost learning time to quarantine," Pekel said. "We have closed classrooms and grade levels, but no schools, and I think that's a significant accomplishment."

For the third goal, Pekel talked about how the district is putting federal funding toward the hiring of additional equity specialists. He highlighted the Perspectives Project that the district is undertaking, during which they will speak with students who have been acting out in disruptive ways. He also said the district will be piloting an app "to strengthen student-teacher relationships."

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"I'm excited that this is part of our DEI work because relationships are at the core -- they're at the core of being able to advance equity," Pekel said. "And so this will be an innovative effort to leverage technology to do that as well."

Mid Year Self Evaluation by inforumdocs on Scribd

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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