Q&A: Stillwater Superintendent Corey Lunn Already Preparing for New Role
Lunn will take over as superintendent of the Stillwater Area School District July 1.
The Stillwater Area School District will be under the new leadership of Superintendent Corey Lunn this July.
Lunn takes over after working as superintendent of Montgomery-Lonsdale Schools for the last four years. Before accepting that position, Lunn spent 12 years in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District as a principal, assistant principal and teacher. Lunn also taught science in Mason City, IA He earned his undergraduate degree at Southwest State University, and earned advanced degrees from Mankato State University and the University of Minnesota.
Lunn recently spoke to Stillwater Patch to help residents better understand where he stands on issues he will face when he takes over leadership of the district.
Stillwater Patch: How are you preparing yourself for your new job?
Corey Lunn: I have been using some of my vacation days at Montgomery-Lonsdale Schools to spend time in the Stillwater Area Public School District. So far this time has been used to participate in the finalist interviews for the positions of curriculum and instruction director and principal of Stillwater Jr. High. On these days I have also visited schools and connected with Tom Nelson, other school staff and board members. My family and I have also been coming up on weekends to drive around the school district and look at potential places to live. The Partnership Plan has planned a "meet and greet" event for me on June 7 at the Lake Elmo Bank. There have also been many, many emails from community members, staff and students. It has been a challenge to continue my work in the Montgomery-Lonsdale District and begin the transition to Stillwater Area Public Schools; however, I feel great about the start and feel confident that I will be able to "hit the ground running." Everyone has been very supportive and helpful.
Stillwater Patch: What are you most excited about when it comes to joining the Stillwater area community?
Lunn: The Stillwater area is a beautiful place to live with a fantastic school district and many assets for children and families. Our entire family is excited to become a part of this community.
Stillwater Patch: The District will be going through its first redistricting in more than a decade. How do you plan to help tackle this? How much will community input play into the decisions? What are some of the challenges you foresee with redistricting and what are some of the positive things that can come from this process?
Lunn: From what I understand the toughest decisions regarding which neighborhoods will attend which schools has already been decided and communicated with families. The next steps will be to continue communicating the necessity and processes related to these changes. There is also more work that needs to be completed concerning the future plan and/or vision of the structure of the middle schools. I expect this to be a focus for the upcoming school year. Although change is always difficult, some of the positives I see from the redistricting include better balancing of the schools, providing room for growth and ultimately better learning environments for the students.
Stillwater Patch: What are your perceptions of the feedback the District recently received from a public survey? Could you talk about how, or if, the District will attempt to tackle some of the issues of class sizes, the visual arts program and world language programs?
Lunn: I believe the purpose of the survey was to gauge the communities' interest and support for these programs. Therefore the next steps will be to consider how each fits into the strategic plan and long-term vision of Stillwater Area Public Schools. Of course these, and other changes may be dependent on resources which come from existing and/or new budget sources. It is clear from the survey that there is tremendous support of, and satisfaction with, the school district; however, there are also strong expectations around accountability and spending resources wisely.
Stillwater Patch: What are some of your ideas for improving the Stillwater Area School District under your watch?
Lunn: Initially the support and facilitation of the Strategic Plan: Vision 2014 will be key. Within this process there will be opportunities for me to ask questions, ask for considerations and make suggestions regarding the implementation of these goals. Additionally the recent survey results and other day-to-day challenges will also present these opportunities. I believe what staff and community members will notice most in regards to improvements will be a "fresh outlook" and "outside perspective." There will be lots of critical questions, challenges and brainstorming on how these might, or could be, done differently. This process has already begun as we are looking at ways to better support the elementary schools with a focus on literacy, an emphasis on instructional leadership and thematic learning approaches.
Stillwater Patch: What are your opinions on grade reconfiguration in the Stillwater Area School District? Do you support changing grades to K-5, 6-8 and 9-12? Why or Why not? What are the benefits?
Lunn: First of all I strongly believe that any grade configuration can be beneficial for students. It is just a matter of aligning curriculum, resources and programming to best meet the needs of the students. From what I know regarding the growth and capacity needs of the communities and school buildings, considering a 6-8 model seems to make sense. In my earlier days as a middle school principal we had experience with students in multiple configurations including 7-9, 7-8 and 6-8. By far the 6-8 configuration "felt" better in terms of meeting academic and social needs for students. I believe there needs to be a lot more discussion and community engagement in terms of the solutions to address the 9-12 space challenges as any decision will have both immediate and long-term results. Proceeding thoroughly and cautiously while engaging the public in these decisions will be important.
Stillwater Patch: How do you plan on tackling the budget issues facing schools, while maintaining a high level of service to the students? Do you foresee the need for a levy or referendum?
Lunn: This is the central and overriding question that all school districts are facing right now. My approach has been, and will continue to be to protect the programs and services for students as much as possible. To do this involves a "leave no rock unturned" approach in terms of operating efficiently and finding existing and new resources to support these programs. In my current school district some of this attention focused on reevaluating contracts with vendors and services, lowering insurance costs and reorganizing office support to redirect and support students' needs. From what I know, to continue what is in place now in Stillwater Area Public Schools will require difficult discussions and considerations to take place. In short, bringing an operating referendum for voter approval, or reducing costs—or a combination the two—needs to be considered to maintain the programs and services that are currently in place.
Stillwater Patch: What is the best advice you have been given as a school administrator? How do you use that advice during day-to-day operations?
Lunn: Many years ago an experienced administrator in a class I was taking shared his motto for success: "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Ever since then this has been my approach to personal and professional development. Being thorough, prepared and looking to the future has resulted in many professional and personal successes. This is the same advice I always give others, be prepared and develop your own path, because if you do not then "any path will do." The work we do is way too important and impacts the lives of way too many students to not have a deliberate and focused path to improve their teaching, learning and ultimately successes in life.