Algoma’s new school superintendent sees ‘great things’ in the district, discusses goals
ALGOMA – Jesse Brinkmann may be going from Northeast Wisconsin's largest school district to one of its smaller ones, but he said he sees a lot of exciting positives in the Algoma School District.
Currently a director of elementary education for the Green Bay Area Public School District, Brinkmann was hired as the new superintendent for the Algoma district earlier this year and will start his new job July 1. He will take over from Nick Cochart, who is leaving after eight years as superintendent.
Brinkmann said he was looking at opportunities to advance his career in education, and the Algoma district offered a number of factors he found attractive.
"I did some research prior to applying," Brinkmann said, "and learned very quickly there were a lot of great things going on for the students (in Algoma). I thought it fit well with my philosophies on education."
Brinkmann's career in education includes teaching positions at every level of secondary school, from elementary to high school and special education. In fact, he said he helped start the special education program in the Luxemburg-Casco School District.
But he was interested in the administrative side, so he earned a license to become a school principal and worked in the Green Bay district as dean of students at Lombardi Middle School, associate principal at Sullivan School and principal for eight years at Langlade Elementary before becoming one of the district's two directors of elementary education. In that position, he oversees 14 of Green Bay's 27 public elementary schools, including the Head Start and Online 4K-5 schools.
Asked what attracted him to the Algoma district, Brinkmann mentioned the opportunities students have to learn in different ways. Specifically, he noted the opening in the past year of its public charter school, Algoma Venture Academy, which offers project-based and personalized learning for students in grades seven through 12.
"(The academy) provides opportunities students may not have in a traditional setting," Brinkmann said. "A strong special ed department was another thing with a lot of different opportunities. You have a strong school board that has a very clear vision of what they want to see in the district going forward."
Algoma has launched a number of innovative and successful programs in recent years, including the Live Algoma community wellness effort, Wolf Den mentoring program and Wolf Tech student-run manufacturing and tech business. Yet it also found itself in the middle of the pack with the scores on its report cards from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, placing in the "Meets Expectations" category overall last fall but with smaller scores than in past years.
Some of the drop in school scores can be attributed to difficult teaching and learning conditions during the pandemic, as the DPI noted, but Brinkmann said there's more to whether or not a school district is successful than just those scores.
"The results I saw, the test scores out there, you can look at that as one piece of data," he said. "A school can be measured in multiple different ways. I look at the measure of a school in the feedback I get through the community, working with the alumni and finding out if they feel they've been prepared enough."
Being new to the Algoma district, Brinkmann said his immediate goal when he starts in July is learning about the district and getting to know its faculty, staff, students and parents.
"I don't plan to make a lot of changes in the first year," he said. "My plan is to get to know the district, learn what's working well and strengthen it. That should be done working in a collaborative effort. That goes back to my No. 1 goal, which is building relationships."
He also is learning what he can from Cochart about the role he will take over.
"Nick and I have been working very closely since February on a smooth transition," Brinkmann said. "I also had the opportunity to come over and job shadow him for three days, got to learn more about where the district stands on the budget, the curriculum, did a meet-and-greet with all the staff members."
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Long-term, Brinkmann said he hopes to put his experiences in special education to use by making sure all students have access to the tools they need to succeed not just at Algoma but beyond.
"Equity is a huge focus," he said, "providing each student with what they need, knowing each student can be successful. I think my time as a special education instructor provided me the opportunity to realize every student is different and needs different things to succeed."
Along those lines, he wants to look at how online programs and technology might be able to help Algoma students. He said the biggest lesson schools learned from the COVID-19 pandemic was how they can implement such technologies to educate students, and he thinks it can be used to enhance their education now that things are returning closer to normal.
"I want to do a little more research on the tech we use in the district, what types of programs we use in the schools," Brinkmann said. "The challenge is, it's divided many of our community members. I look at it as a chance to bring those members together."
Another point of focus for Brinkmann is working closely with the elementary school, which is several blocks away from the high school, to make sure it has the resources it needs.
Whatever Brinkmann hopes to accomplish as superintendent, he said it needs to happen with the district and community working together.
"It's going to be done working with the school board very closely, working with community members," he said.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Algoma's new school superintendent sees 'great things' in the district, discusses goals