New Lyle principal, superintendent ‘clicking well’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 1999

LYLE – There’s a new attitude and a renewed professionalism in Lyle Public Schools this year.

Thursday, December 09, 1999

LYLE – There’s a new attitude and a renewed professionalism in Lyle Public Schools this year.

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Jerry Reshetar is the new superintendent. Thomas Hiebert is the new principal.

The team of Reshetar and Hiebert is making a difference, citizens say.

Oddly enough, Hiebert sought the Lyle superintendency that was awarded to Reshetar. However, the Lyle Public Schools interview team liked Hiebert so much, they immediately offered him the principal’s job and he accepted.

"After obtaining my superintendent’s licensure, I wanted to obtain the small school experience and here at Lyle I have the opportunity to be an elementary school principal as well," he said.

Before accepting the Lyle job, Hiebert talked to Reshetar and he discovered the pair "clicked well." He said, "I felt positive about working with Jerry, because he was very good at sharing."

"But," he quickly added, "I was very impressed with the people in the interview process. By then, I had had several interviews and when I did the Lyle interview I just felt very comfortable with them."

"They were very clear that they were going to let us run the school," he said. "Everyone here plays their role properly. I’ve got good people around me and Jerry let’s me do my job."

Hiebert is a graduate of Ceylon High School, who is the son of long-time school principal Don Hiebert, who is also a long-time Minnesota Athletic Directors Association director.

Hiebert has gained attention wherever he has gone in life.

When he was a student at South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D., he played on the school’s varsity football team and coached the sport while he was earning his bachelor’s degree.

Armed with a degree in agriculture education, he taught for three years at Fairmont, where he also coached football.

Budget cuts came in 1982 and Hiebert went. He returned to college to earn his master’s degree in high school administration at Minnesota State University-Mankato. While there, Hiebert coached track at Mankato East High School, where he also was an assistant principal intern.

His first administrative position was grades 7-9 principal at Grove City-Atwater Public Schools. When the district added a third community, a reorganization forced Hiebert, with the least seniority, out.

He went to Sauk Center to be a grade 10-12 principal for five years.

During that time, he also completed his superintendent licensure work, prompting him to apply for the Lyle position when it became vacant this summer.

Hiebert and his wife, Wendy, a St. Thomas University business degree-holder, have two daughters, Laurie, 4, and Jill, 3.

Lyle is the smallest school in Mower County. This year’s enrollment is 250 students in grades kindergarten through 12th. There are 25 full- or part-time teachers and support staff. The school district is in the midst of major changeovers, including eight new high school faculty members.

Hiebert said he is "very pleased" with the teaching faculty, who he describes as "energetic and people who work well together."

As for the principal himself, Hiebert described his principal’s style as one that is "very organized and structured, but with the flexibility to deal with changes when they come."

"I’m prepared. I have 14 years of experience in school administration," he said.

As for his relationship with students, Hiebert said, "I like to see growth in kids. I like to see them accept responsibility for their actions and their academics."

"They can come to me and talk to me and I believe that people can always disagree, but it must be done in a respectful manner." he said.

Reshetar and Hiebert started in late-August only weeks apart shortly before the start of the 1999-2000 school year.

Reshetar’s public rating rises with everything he does. In particular, parents and grandparents enjoy his take-charge attitude and enjoy seeing the superintendent outside the school, when classes are dismissed, wishing students a good day and waving "goodbye" until the next school day. It is a little thing that gets noticed.

Hiebert goes about his job and earns respect and praise his way. Because of the number of new teachers, he is busy with the required classroom observations of faculty members, but quite likely, he will "pop into" any classroom at any time.

"I like to walk-through the hallways and visit the classrooms whenever I can," he said. "I want the students and the teachers to know I’m concerned and that I am not there as a threat but to support them."

Hiebert holds some strong opinions about education in Minnesota and is not shy about sharing them. For instance, he said, "Ten years ago, the state of Minnesota went overboard in trying to reinvent education in Greater Minnesota. That was the time they were pushing for the small school districts to close and merge with others. If you had 100 or less students, they said you must close."

"The state, literally, went after the small schools, because they didn’t realize what small schools are all about," he said. "They are the heart and soul of communities and wherever you go in a community where there was a small school and now it is closed, you will see a town that is suffering. My own home town of Ceylon is an example."

Now, Hiebert observed, "We are seeing a trend happening in the other direction and concerns about schools being too big."

Small rural school districts must wrestle with large challenges, according to Hiebert. Not only is there the situation of declining enrollment, but to provide services for special needs students, meet modern educational needs with similarly-equipped facilities and a teacher shortage in such critical areas as math, foreign languages and science also stretches the small district to the maximum.

Hiebert said Lyle Public Schools is dealing with those challenges and he likes the relationship, being cultivated with Pacelli High School in Austin. With shared-sports, Hiebert is talking with Greg Hereford, Pacelli’s principal, about shared academics, too.

Now in the discussion stage is a major restructuring proposal to turn the school day from several periods into "blocks" of time.

So, the new administrators on the block are making a difference only the first quarter into their first school year at Lyle.

If there is a single message that the new principal wants all of the families in the Lyle school district to know it is this: Lyle Public Schools will prepare their sons and daughters for the future.

"I want to let people know we will have a good school here," he said.

"I also want the families to know they can trust their students with me and that I will do the best thing always and that I am someone they can come to talk to," he said.