Thursday, May 30, 2024
Ariana Wright

K-M Elementary principal leaving for Lake City superintendent position

Early on in her career, Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School principal Ariana Wright knew she wanted to lead. She’ll soon take on a new level of leadership as Lake City Public Schools superintendent.

“Lake City is a very special district just like Kasson-Mantorville. The leadership is exemplary, the teaching staff is incredibly dedicated, and the community is very supportive. Those are the qualities I look for in a high-functioning district, and that all came together with Lake City. I love working in a small town with rural community values. I have found that in Lake City and Kasson-Mantorville. The Lake City position is a really great opportunity.”

“Lake City is gaining a great professional,” Kasson-Mantorville Superintendent Mark Matuska said. “Ariana was just a bright star in our community and within the district and amongst our staff. She will certainly be deeply missed by the Kasson-Mantorville community.”

Wright signed her contract with the Lake City school district on April 4, and will start July 1. Lake City leaders are eager to have Wright join their ranks.

Their superintendent hiring process began with five finalists, which were narrowed to three and then two. Wright stood out, school board president Heath Oeltjen said, for her energy and passion. “She seemed like a really creative person in what she’s done and, in her career,” he said. “We’re just really excited to have her start and looking forward to her time in Lake City.”

Wright began her career as a music teacher and said her first principal at St. Michael Catholic School in St. Michael, Minnesota, really inspired her to lead. “She showed me how impactful it can be as a strong leader of a whole school system,” she said. “From an early point in my career I knew I wanted to pursue educational leadership.”

From St. Michael, she moved onto Belle Plaine Public Schools as a music teacher. Wright also pursued advanced degrees, obtaining her master’s degree from Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, and getting her specialist degree in educational leadership from Minnesota State University, Mankato, as well, to position her for advancement later.

She began interviewing for principal positions, and landed initially in Menahga, Minnesota, as an elementary school principal, where she served for four years, and which is where she said she learned how to become a great leader. I was able to develop my leadership skills with some amazing mentors in that region of the state as well as with an awesome teaching and administrative team.”

After four years there, southeastern Minnesota was calling her home, she said. She has deep roots in this region, with a family farm in the area dating back 150 years.

The Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School principal’s post interested her, and it was the only district she applied to when looking to move back to southeastern Minnesota. It was eight years ago, in 2015, that Wright landed the principal position and moved her family to Kasson.

“Kasson-Mantorville Elementary is an incredibly special place where the culture of teachers and students and families are all focused on excellence,” she said. “Our commitment to excellence at Kasson-Mantorville schools is unlike any other mission or vision I’ve seen in other districts.”

“It’s lived out in all the actions throughout the district. Commitment to Excellence is exactly what drew me to Kasson-Mantorville and has made me so proud to work here for all of these years.”

Wright said she was inspired by Matuska over the past several years to grow her leadership at the state level. Part of that was her being named as a National Distinguished Principal, as well as the School of Excellence Award that Kasson-Mantorville Schools is earning this school year.

She said her path has been toward leadership in a bigger role within another school district. To position herself for an advancement, she completed the National Aspiring Superintendent Academy for Women Leaders, graduating in June 2022. She also began working on her superintendent’s license through Minnesota State University, Mankato, from which she’ll graduate in May “just in time to take over leadership in Lake City,” she said.

“I’m honored and humbled that the district leadership saw the same strengths in me that I saw in them, and that it was a fit for both of us,” Wright said of her Lake City post.

As for Kasson-Mantorville, she said above all she’ll miss the people who make her job a joy.

“We have such a tremendous staff, our kids are creative and hardworking, kind and caring,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to leave the great people here. Our leadership is strong all across the board, with Superintendent Matuska and community leaders who partner with our schools. All around it is an incredibly wonderful group of people.”

“The vision at KM is always set on the needs of kids. What continues to be the key to the success of Kasson-Mantorville schools is the precision focus on what our students need to be best prepared for their future.”

Wright said she’s heard from the Kasson-Mantorville community about her pending departure and has also already been welcomed in by the Lake City community. She has “lots of mixed emotions, of course,” she said of her pending move from Kasson-Mantorville to Lake City.

“I have been very grateful and appreciative of all the well wishes from Kasson-Mantorville folks, students and staff and community members, and parents,” she said. “It’s been very, very sweet. I absolutely love my job as the principal and being able to lead this tremendous place and I will miss it terribly. I’ve also heard from folks in Lake City who are excited for the future and welcoming me warmly. I feel that same sense of community and family among their school community that I feel here in Kasson-Mantorville. I am excited for the future and of course sad to be leaving Kasson-Mantorville at the same time.”

Wright said she doesn’t know if she’ll be relocating for her new position. She and her family are discussing their options, she said, and together they will make a decision in coming weeks.

In Kasson-Mantorville, Matuska said he will post Wright’s open position as elementary school principal and start interviews this spring. He intends to collaborate with the staff at Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School about what they seek in their new principal.

“I think Ariana has grown significantly over the years and she is truly going to be a great superintendent for the Lake City Tigers,” he said. “I’m so proud of her. This was the next logical step in her leadership journey. I’m looking for great things from her.”



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