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Park Rapids school leader leaves district on high note

Glenn Chiodo

Park Rapids Schools superintendent Glenn Chiodo will bid farewell, come June 30.

"Professionally, personally and health-wise, this makes sense," he said of the decision to retire, the formal announcement presented at Monday's board meeting.

"The district has a great foundation," he said. "I want to leave on a high note. And Park Rapids is there now."

Chiodo considers himself to be a "spoke in the wheel," driving the fiscally healthy district that's evolved in the past decade. "We have the fundamental education pieces to meet the needs of all students," he said, "coupled with sports, fine arts and after-school programs.

"The credit is widespread."

When Chiodo arrived in 2003, the district was in "tough shape," the unrestricted fund balance at minus $148,000, with no operating levy in place.

Overall, he said, the community's view of the school was slanted in the negative. "It took a lot of effort by a lot of people to bring it back up."

The district's unreserved fund balance is now at approximately $2.4 million, still considered "light" by state standards, he said. "But we're in a much better position."

The fiscal health of the district, he said, will draw qualified candidates. "I think this will be an attractive job."

The district, he said, experienced downsizing; faces changed. "But we are moving forward. And if an organization is solid, it will continue to move forward. So many people had so much to do with it. My job was not any more important than anyone else's. I just had a different job description."

Chiodo's career began with teaching third grade, moving on to special education. He taught in Thief River Falls from 1975-78 then made a career change, working at an insurance agency in Detroit Lakes until 1985, when he returned to teaching in Thief River Falls. During his teaching tenure, he coached hockey, girls track and football.

Chiodo served as assistant principal at Thief River Falls from 1992-96, principal of the middle school in 1996-97 and coordinator of education services from 1996 to 2000.

He became superintendent of the Renville Schools in 2000, arriving on the Hubbard Prairie three years later.

A superintendent's role, he said, is to perceive all the pieces of the puzzle. "They work interchangeably," he said of bus drivers bringing children to school, cooks feeding them breakfast and teachers providing learning opportunities in the classroom. Each role is key in the day in the life of a child.

"Every piece has to fit."

He leaves but one unfinished component, the Alternative Learning Center, which he projects will be in place by 2013-14.

"I got the chance to be a part of a district with issues," he said. "We rebuilt a solid school system. I was fortunate to be a part of this. I value it.

"We can always be better. But we've kept moving forward, around and through obstacles. We figured them out."

"I don't see my professional career ending. I just don't know what it is," he said of the next chapter.

Chiodo plans to remain in the Park Rapids area. He and wife Patty, parents of three, have five grandsons. The outdoors enthusiast plans to pursue further adventures.