ST. CLOUD - This week, WJON is featuring several area superintendents to highlight their school district before the 2015-2016 school year kicks off.

Today, we highlight Willie Jett, superintendent of St. Cloud area schools. Jett became superintendent in 2013. Here's a look at some of the topics for the district this year:


Possible New Tech High School/Updated Apollo High School

A $167 million referendum including $113.5 million to build a new Tech High School and $46 million to update Apollo High School will be decided on by voters on November 3rd. Jett says a new Tech and updated Apollo would give students more flexible space for different classes and activities.

Proposed new Tech layout (Cuningham Group and IIW Minnesota).

"Being able to have a brand new Tech and renovated Apollo, what it affords our students is that it changes teaching and learning. You could change a room from being a standards room to a room that has small group and large group settings. You could do things with culinary arts and different types of labs."

The proposed new Tech High School would fit 1,800 students and would have 360,000 total square feet for 200 square feet per student. Apollo High School is 45 years old, district officials have stressed the importance of updating its entrance and interior to create more hallway space.


Cultural Relations in St. Cloud Area Schools

On March 25th, over 100 students, mostly Somali, walked out and protested outside of Tech High School.

Students say the cause of the walk out was years of built up frustration from bullying and discrimination and a lack of action from teachers and staff to address it. The outrage reached its peak when a photo was posted to the social media site Snapchat with an insensitive remark involving a Somali girl in a wheelchair, implying she was part of the Islamic State terrorist group.

Since then, a group of students have been regularly meeting with district officials. Jett says he's been impressed by the conversations they've had with the students.

"Some people perceive the student groups are just Somali students and that is not the case. We have Somali students, we have students who are Latino or African American and Caucasian students. Different students that all have the same goal-how to get along, how to learn about each other and how to better function in a school setting."


Summer Construction on North, Clearview, Westwood and Kennedy Buildings

This summer several buildings were being updated and expanded. With classes starting Monday, the district is hurrying to complete construction on a few of the buildings, including North Junior High, Clearview Elementary, Kennedy Community School and Westwood Elementary.

North Junior High: Jett says one wing of the building won't be ready for the start of the year. However, it should be completed and open to students in the near future.

Clearview: The school has cancelled its school open house in order to give construction crews more time to finish the building. Jett says the crews are still confident the school will be ready in time.

Westwood/Kennedy: Jett says these two buildings are basically done and ready to go. Kennedy has some driveway work being finished.

"Obviously a bunch of projects, but we're confident when school starts, we'll be ready to go," Jett says.


Goals for the District This Year

Jett says the district remains focused on its top priority: student achievement.

"No matter what level student you are, we're trying to make sure you're getting the education you need, that you're accelerating."

The district also has the goal of continuing to communicate with the community on the upcoming referendum in November. Jett adds that they're also focused on continuing to support their teachers.

"We have outstanding educators in District 742. We have a wide variety of students and our teachers do an outstanding job inside of the classroom and outside the classroom."

Dan DeBaun, WJON