New superintendent plans to build on predecessors’ work

Community Editor

Steven Massey is proud of all that the Forest Lake Area School District has to offer and is excited to add to and expand what he refers to as the “great work done by those who have come before him” as he steps into the role of district superintendent.

“(Past superintendents) Lynn Steenblock and Dr. Linda Madsen have been role models and mentors in my administrative career,” Massey said. “Their work in and passion for this district served as an inspiration for my interest in applying for this position.”

Massey earned a psychology degree from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and then was accepted to a master’s program in guidance counseling at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He deferred that acceptance in favor of traveling between New York, Houston and Toronto to work for a volunteer organization that helped street kids get their lives back on track.

“That volunteer work exposed me to a new dimension of the world that I wasn’t able to be a part of while going to college,” he said. “I am grateful for that opportunity as I learned a lot from it.”

He worked the volunteer position for a year and a half before going back to begin his studies at UMD. He earned his master’s and began work at urban alternative school PEASE Academy in 1989. In 1994, he became the executive director for the academy and was responsible for the recruitment and development of the school board; managing regulations and procedures related to budgeting and accounting, human resources, student and staff policies, and curriculum and instruction; and marketed and promoted the school within the community.

“As I found myself in more of a leadership role, I found that I enjoyed the work and was comfortable with that responsibility,” Massey said.

Eventually, Massey realized that he wanted to work in a leadership role as part of a bigger system. He sent out some applications for a variety of different positions and was hired as the assistant principal of Central Junior High in Forest Lake during the last year of its existence. Massey worked with other district administrators to successfully transition Central to Century Junior High. In 2001, Massey stepped up the become principal at Central Montessori Elementary School where, among other things, he facilitated the redesign of school grade configurations to match student enrollment with staffing allocations and also implemented a comprehensive literacy program utilizing the district curriculum and supplemented with leveled reading series, formative assessments, data-driven instructional decisions, and professional learning teams focused on instructional adjustment for individual students. In 2003, Massey accepted a job as principal of Forest Lake Area High School, and he’s continued to hold until his superintendent contract takes effect June 1.

“I fell in love with the district right away,” Massey said. “At the time I was first hired in Forest Lake, we were already living here and we had young children in the system, and I was impressed at the level of education that they were receiving.”

Throughout his climb up the district ladder, Massey said that there have been a number of exceptional teachers who have inspired his work and have shown to be real partners in moving the district forward.

“I have said throughout my time here that all of the good work that we have done would not have been possible without such a great team of educators and administrators working hand in hand,” he said. “Not only that, but Forest Lake has a large group of community members who are also committed to seeing the district succeed and that has been a blessing as well.”

Massey said that there is a lot of positive momentum in the district and he believes there are tremendous opportunities that are well positioned to move Forest Lake schools well into 21st century and to continue to evolve and transform how kids engage in learning. He noted, however, that he will face some challenges coming into his new position.

“We need to work to continue to improve student achievement,” he said. “We have been doing a lot of amazing things lately, and we need to continue to build on those. Another challenge will be to continue working to find solutions to our expense needs.”

As Massey moves into his superintendent role, he will be leaving behind 14 years of work as a high school principal. Although he has committed to still being involved at the “building level,” there are some things he will miss.

“I will miss the heartbeat that a school has,” he said. “The pulse of teaching and learning is a really exciting thing.”

The previous superintendents are a big inspiration to Massey, who plans to follow their lead in embodying the good qualities the position calls for.

“A good superintendent must have the ability to articulate a vision and to move people along that path,” Massey said. “One must also have the ability to draw great ideas from people and the community and educators within the system, must be able to both listen and learn, must have integrity, must have the ability to build trust, and must be able to communicate well.”

In the end, Massey said that he is grateful for the opportunity to lead this district into what are sure to be very exciting times.

“I am very thankful for this opportunity and the trust and confidence that the board has placed in me, he said. “My only hope is that I can continue to draw on great educators and community folks who have the best interest of the district in mind and continue to partner and move our district forward.”