New superintendent is at home at Maple Lake Schools

A man who loves to hunt and fish should feel very much at home in Maple Lake.

Mark Redemske, the new superintendent of Maple Lake Schools, assumed his position on July 1 and is spending time getting to know his new school and his new community.

As the former Cuyuna Elementary principal in the Crosby/Ironton School District, Redemske will be moving farther away from land he bought for bow-hunting deer. “I have a bit of acreage up north that I have pretty well set up for that,” he said.

But living in an area surrounded by lakes is a plus for the Redemske family.  “My wife, Paula, went fishing every weekend when she was a kid,” Redemske said. “The whole family enjoys fishing.”

Paula also enjoys running, sticking to a schedule that takes her about 3 1/2 miles each day. Redemske said his wife served as the honorary chairperson for the Susan B. Coleman Race for the Cure in Brainerd. “She is a breast cancer survivor and signed the whole family up for the race,” he said.

The rest of the Redemske family includes fifth grader Alyssa, fourth grader Brian and first grader Cal. And with their interests ranging from wrestling, baseball and soccer for the boys to softball, basketball, soccer and piano for Alyssa, Redemske said he and his wife spend a big portion of their free time getting their kids to and from their activities.

“Being that my kids are the age they are, it seems that I’m involved in the things they want to do,” he said.

Wrestling is a big part of his sons’ lives and his wife’s as well. Redemske said Paula’s father is Don Dravis, who was the wrestling coach at Staples and turned it into a state wrestling powerhouse. Because of his successful tenure at Staples, Dravis was recently inducted into the Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame. And Dravis was succeeded at Staples by his son, Jeff. In addition, Paula and her sister were wrestling cheerleaders at Staples and her three brothers wrestled in both high school and college.

“I played basketball and I don’t have a chance with my boys,” Redemske laughed. “So I work with my daughter on her basketball skills.”

The Redemske family has purchased a home in the Paumen Addition on the west side of Maple Lake and are making plans for the big move in August.

“I’m already there,” Redemske said. “We closed on the house in mid-June and I’ve been moving stuff down for the past couple of weeks. My first night there was the Monday night after the board meeting,” which he also noted was the last day on the job for former superintendent Ken Engel.  “The next couple of weeks will be hectic,” he said. “I’ll be going back and forth for the kids’ birthdays. I feel like a transient. I don’t know where home is anymore.”

But Redemske said living in Maple Lake was a priority for him.  “I’m a little old-fashioned that way,” he said. “I was just brought up that it’s best if you can live in the community you work in. And we’ve shopped locally.”

The move to Maple Lake will begin in earnest when Paula completes her commitment to the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby where she served as Director of Nutritional Services. And she will start work at a similar position with the Monticello-Big Lake Hospital on August 25.

Redemske said his children are concerned about moving away from their friends, but he and his wife felt that their kids are at an age where they could make the transition fairly easily. And he brought Alyssa with him during spring break to look at houses and meet teachers at Maple Lake Elementary.

“It’s obviously a wonderful school,” Redemske said. “I’ve been impressed with everyone I’ve met who is associated with the school district.” He also pointed to the strong scores in state testing and excellent facilities as signs of a good school.

“This is a solid school district and one of my beliefs is when you have good people, you stay out of their way and let them excel at their jobs,” he said, “while providing them with the leadership they need.”

Redemske said one of the first issues he will have to tackle is the ongoing curriculum writing process and the staff request that a curriculum director be hired to guide that process.

“It seems like such a powerful process that has served this district well,” he said. “We need to do what we can to see the process of curriculum writing through.”

One obstacle Redemske will face in supporting local programs is the budget crunch faced by the state. “With the state in financial crisis, we did not see any new money and most districts went backwards in that regard,” he said. “That makes the issue of continuing the curriculum process more difficult to address.”

Another item on the plate of the new superintendent is the upcoming staff salary negotiations.  “Contract negotiations are due for all of our personnel,” Redemske said. “The board has been doing some work with the representatives of our teachers union already. I’ll have to get up to speed and see where we are with that.  “We want to do the best we can to negotiate with the employees of the district and provide a financial balance, which may be difficult with the challenges the state is facing, but I think it can be done.”

Redemske said that he’s also been making an effort to meet with staff to learn more about them and their job duties. “From my standpoint, I have to get my head around what’s going on and meeting people in the school district and the community.

“I’m a small town person,” he said. “I grew up in a small town and the largest school district I’ve worked in was Litchfield. And as with most small towns, Maple Lake seems to be filled with friendly people.”

He told how third grade teacher Rhonda Carlson-Puncochar came up to him at a wrestling meet their sons were at last spring. They had met briefly during the superintendent selection process and she recognized Redemske.

“She came up and said “Hi” and talked to Paula and me for a while. I don’t know if people realize how much those little things mean to people who are new in the community.”

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