Administrators to shift responsibilities

Minnehaha announces a leadership change taking effect next year

Before coronavirus took the world by storm, Minnehaha announced that it would undergo an administration switch-up that would take effect at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. As a result, the Lower, Middle and Upper schools will each have principals: Karen Balmer, Jason Wenschlag and Mike DiNardo, respectively. Currently, Balmer is K-8 principal, Wenschlag is Upper School principal, and DiNardo is Upper School vice principal.

The first inklings of a change were brought up at the end of the first semester and were focused on increasing collaboration between the North and South Campus. The leaders of Minnehaha felt they could better disperse themselves to have a greater impact on students and the community. 

This idea came from a meeting I had with Mr. Wenschlag at the end of Christmas break,” said Balmer. “Our conversation evolved to more brainstorming and dreaming about what we might be able to do if we deployed our current leadership resources differently.”

After their meeting, Balmer and Wenschlag notified President Donna Harris of their idea. Harris was very open and accepting of the plan, so the idea was set in motion. The other two leaders who are a part of this switch are  DiNardo and Libby Burton, the current Lower School Dean of Students. 

The meeting between Balmer and Wenschlag produced a plan that is allowing the leaders of both Minnehaha campuses to be better distributed across the grade levels to maximize their impact on students. 

“Mr. Wenschlag will be the Middle School principal but will also have oversight as the Director of Teaching and Learning,” explained DiNardo. “My replacement will be Libby Burton, who will have the title of Upper School Academic Dean.”

Splitting the South Campus into two groups of students will allow for more in-depth interaction between the students and leaders.

The plan for the upcoming school year has stayed constant with what Balmer and Wenschlag came up with during their first brainstorming session. 

With the change in position comes a change in responsibilities for each leader and a change of setting for Burton and Wenschlag. 

“I’ve always wanted to work in a high school setting, so I’m thrilled at the opportunity to start working more with high schoolers,” said Burton. “I love high schoolers’ thrill for life and engaging in conversations at such a fun stage of life!” 

Burton’s responsibilities will be consistent with what DiNardo did as he transitions away from student-focused work into more faculty and teacher-focused work. Some of his new responsibilities will concern curricular work, goal-setting, planning and budgeting. Balmer’s change will be similar to DiNardo’s in that she will be working much more closely with the teachers in PreK-5th grade. 

“We anticipate growth at all levels and having a principal dedicated to each division to support the growth will be valuable,” said Balmer. 

Wenschlag’s primary focus will be on Middle School as the Middle School principal and he will have essentially the same responsibilities as he did in the Upper School. However, he will also have added tasks as the Director of Teaching and Learning. 

“I will help lead teaching and learning at Minnehaha, which revolves around curriculum, assessment, faculty professional development and special programs,” said Wenschlag. 

This change of administration will allow for greater teamwork between the North and South Campuses. Wenschlag’s new position will have a say in matters at both buildings which grants more room for joint-campus events and will hopefully clear up any confusion that existed in the past. 

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