Hermantown Community Schools

Legendary Hermantown Community Schools board member Tim Peterson on various school district and community topics: “We’re a family-first community, where my wife and I have lived for 33 years and raised our children. We built our house here, and now our son is building a home in Hermantown. We’re a very healthy city and school district. Building community still drives us. 

“Our school board consists of a mix of very talented people. I’m starting my fifth year on the board, and I guess you could call me the elder in the group. The challenge for new board members is just knowing how the schools operate. It’s different that a normal business, with different rules and policies largely set by the state, along with a little federal legislation mixed in there, too. We levy our citizens, so we always must make sure that we live within our means.

“My advice for new board members: Just be yourself and add value where you think you can. We don’t micro-manage our administration at the board level, but rather set policy and guidelines which sometimes is not easy. We have a great superintendent (Wayne Whitwam) and business manager who keep us within budget, something we’ve been able to do for the last four years I’ve been on the board while reducing our tax levy by one and one-half percent. The district has a sound balance sheet which provides us with better optionality.   

“I believe most residents would agree the new high school and middle school upgrades in 2015 are a great addition to our community. Some would say we underbuilt for the $47 million, but like it’s been said, ‘You can only build with as much money as you have.’ We’re continually monitoring community growth and our class sizes and facilities. How fast will Hermantown continue to grow? It’s a good problem for us, rather than being a dying community where we can’t fill the chairs at our schools.

“Every grade (K–12) has a recommended teacher-to-student ratio. Everyone wants smaller class sizes, and we’re very diligent in our analysis of the ratio. But there’s also the monetary aspect of it.

“We’re a healthy, growing community, as evidenced by nearly every class in our schools having a wait list for non-residents students. Anecdotally, people seem to move here in large part for the school district and I think that speaks volumes for our district. Some would call us a bedroom community, where residents value houses with privacy. We’ve had some push back against major housing or industrial developments though we all realize that some areas will have more housing concentration, apartments, than others. This is necessary to accommodate residents who may not be interested in building a home but wish to be a part of our community. When you drive around town, there’s not much concentrated housing and the growth is managed well. Most residential homes have an acre or so, and the majority have wooded back yard. House prices are quite high, as seen recently, probably due more to the demand outstripping the supply. Hermantown still has open land and I see more housing developments underway.

“The infrastructure improvements at Fichtner (Field), for our trail system and a second indoor ice sheet, which the community supported in the recent referendum, is a good cause which I supported. It’s a quality of living investment, a game-changer for us as we upgrade the athletic facilities with synthetic turf like many of our neighboring communities have. We finally got turf on our football field, which has been a tremendous upgrade, and we have one of the best hockey programs in the state that will greatly benefit by the second indoor ice sheet.

“Some cities don’t reinvest in themselves, and people ultimately don’t want to live there. We realize how important these infrastructure investments are in Hermantown.

“We don’t have a traditional main street, so the area around the school and the wellness center is the hub for most of our community activities. Our community and schools are actually very ingrained in each other, which is positive. The school is the center of our community, where residents with or without students attend various sporting, concerts, plays and community events hosted within school facilities.

“People live here in close proximately to their jobs. Like every community, we have our issues – but I am impressed with our city and school administrations and our residents who rally around any issue and work together to address them. Hermantown always steps up.”