The 2023-24 school year is officially underway at Winona Area Public Schools.
The district held a welcome back celebration for all staff on Tuesday morning at the middle school. It’s the only time all year the entire staff can gather together.
In his first remarks to the staff, Brad Berzinski, a Winona native and WAPS graduate who started as Superintendent of Schools on July 1, identified his priorities for the school year — improving the culture, building community, strengthening partnerships and continuing to pursue alignment of the various strategies within the district.
“There’s pockets of great things happening in the school district,” Berzinski said, recounting what community members told him over the summer. “There’s pockets of excellence. But there’s not that feeling of cohesion. How do we move this thing forward, together? I’ll challenge you and challenge myself to do that work.”
Berzinksi also gave the staff members a question to ponder: At the end of this school year, what will indicate that you’ve been successful in your role?
“How are you going to challenge the status quo this year in your classroom, in your building, in your department?” Berzinski said. “How are you going to be courageous enough to commit this work that you’ve identified as a priority in your world for 23-24?”
The keynote address was delivered by Kevin Brennan, co-owner and facilitator of Top 20 Training. Brennan is a former teacher and coach who has worked with WAPS staff members in the past on connecting and building trusting relationships with both students and adult audiences.
When things get challenging, Brennan said, what do you do? He encouraged staff to check their frame, or to see things differently. He encouraged the staff to be “curious” instead of being focused on being “right.”
The staff also heard from school board chair Nancy Denzer, Foundation for WAPS interim director Luke Merchlewitz and communications coordinator John Casper.
WAPS School Nutrition provided the breakfast, while the Winhawk Marching Band got everyone’s attention with a drumline performance in the commons, then a brief concert in the auditorium.
New staff members were introduced, and employees were recognized for their years of service. Robert “Bubba” Muras, a member of the maintenance staff, received a standing ovation marking his 40 years of service.