It's been a good ride
"Will I miss it? Sure"
Speaking about his retirement from education, Blooming Prairie Schools Superintendent Barry Olson says his education career of 43 years "has been a good ride" for him.
Olson officially steps down as Blooming Prairie School District superintendent on July 1. Enter Chris Staloch, currently Blooming Prairie Elementary School principal. Staloch will succeed Olson.
Raised as what he calls a "city slicker," Olson has been completely at home in a rural community during his 36 years of residing with family in Blooming Prairie. He grew up in the Minnetonka area.
Olson is built on an athletic frame and has always been drawn to sports. Education is not all sports, however, Olson emphasizes.
Retirement will give Olson "a chance to relax and a chance not to be run by a bell, a calendar or by administrative meetings," he says. "It will be nice not having a prepared schedule and not having the responsibilities of making big decisions," he added.
Some of those big decisions revolved around declaring snow days for students and staff. Olson said Blooming Prairie declared 12 snow days this past winter, the most since he has been superintendent.
Olson said Blooming Prairie is "making up" two of those days. Special legislation was adopted this past session of the Minnesota Legislature not requiring school districts to make up snow days this winter.
Olson said he plans to spend more time at his family cabin located 12 miles northwest of Alexandria at Brandon. That cabin time, of course, will mean more time to spend with wife Diane and their three children and six grandchildren.
The Olsons' three children and their children are: Kristin Schneider (Ben), Sophie, 6, Mark, 2; Kari Bodurtha (Aaron), Nora, 8, Payton, 6 and and Kraig (Kristina), Ryker, 3 and Rhett, 1.
Diane and Barry have been married for 42 years.
He is a 1972 graduate of Minnetonka High School and a 1976 graduate of Dana College in Blair, NE with a BA degree in general science education. The college has since closed. "I have to go to Lincoln for my transcripts, Olson says.
Olson's first teaching job, a junior high science gig, was in Omaha. He then taught science and math for six years at Blair, Neb.
Olson applied for a basketball coaching position at Blair. This was fate because he did not get the job and it led him to inquire about a math and science teaching position in Blooming Prairie.
The Blooming Prairie job was his after he chose it over two other offers he received the same day, one at BOLD and the other at an Iowa school.
"Blooming Prairie was the best fit and I love it still," Olson remarked.
Olson taught in Blooming from 1983-87 and then went to Owatonna to become head girls basketball coach. He also taught junior high science. He stayed there 12 years, still living in Blooming Prairie.
After gaining his principal's license, Olson began looking and accepted a high school principal position in 1999.
The superintendent's tag was applied to Olson in 2001 when the BP board asked him to be principal and superintendent. The district was in dire financial need at the time, seeing statutory operating debt.
Olson wore both hats for 14 years. He went to part time in 2015. As superintendent, Olson was contracted with School Administrative Specialty Services.
During his time as superintendent, Olson created positions to benefit students and the community. The district activities director and assistant principal duties were merged. Also, the responsibilities of community education, test coordinator and administrative assistant were given to Susan Kramer.
Olson said he knew in high school that he wished to enter the education field as a teacher and coach. His father was a history teacher and also coached.
Olson played basketball and baseball, both in high school and college. He is a member of the Dana College Hall of Fame.
During his teaching and administrative career in education, Olson said he always believed in putting students first.
Olson became a proponent of self-directed teaching in the 1980s and 90s. "Some students learn easier than others," he says. "Expect students to show respect and you usually get it in return," Olson believes.
As a principal, Olson said it was like being coach of a building. "You have to deal with students, staff and parents," he explained. "I believe in doing the best for kids and in helping develop programs to enhance education," Olson continued.
"We want to give students the skills they need to do what they want to do whether it be becoming a farmer, attorney and doctor.
"My own kids appreciate the education they received here."
As superintendent, Olson dealt with everyone and faced some critical decisions, he said. Those decisions often covered funding, transportation, legislation and public relations.
As a district administrator, Olson said he watched students become good citizens. The district also implemented programs enhance education opportunities. He listed technology, curriculum improvement at the elementary level, enhancement of the pre-school program and implementation of robotics and college within the school.
"We take care of our students," Olson affirmed. Blooming Prairie students develop the skills they need to succeed in life, he says.
Olson praises the Blooming Prairie staffs. "Our employees, which total about 100, are always trying to improve their communities," he commented. That staff total includes 63 certified teachers but does not include transportation and food service workers.
Staff members are "very talented, dependable and do a good job for us," Olson said.
Looking at accomplishments he shares with others in education, Olson said he believes the Blooming Prairie district is continually producing a quality product. That is proved by 19 juniors recently joining the Minnesota Honor Society.
With Olson at the helm, the district made some major facility improvements in 2007-08. "Our community should be proud of its school facilities," he says.
Other accomplishments include the one on one program issuing laptop computers to students in grades 10-12. The district also issued iPads to students in grades 7-9.
Olson said he has always enjoyed watching kids perform and seeing them become good citizens and leaders.
Olson places faith and family high on his priority list. "Family is the reason we live," he says.
His community is also high on the priority list. He has served as president of the BP Lions Club and also served two terms as president of the First Lutheran Church Council. He is a non-voting member of the Education Foundation and is a BP Chamber member.
Blooming Prairie school enrollment has steadily increased to 750 students. Early childhood counts an additional 50 kids.
During his stay in BP education, Olson has seen the school lose students and a staff member.
"We've had lots of fun times and enjoyed some special relationships with friends," Olson stated.
"I've always enjoyed education and it's easy to succeed when you surround yourself with good people."