Owatonna Public Schools

District Parent Newsletter

February 2019

I Love My Job! Lessons From a Third-Grade Classroom

The first Tuesday of every month, you will see an opinion column written by me, featured in the Owatonna People's Press. In today's edition, I highlighted our commitment to a safe and caring community and wrote about having the honor of being Mrs. Thurnau's third grade classroom substitute.


Below is an excerpt from today's column. To read the entire article CLICK HERE.


Last Friday, I had the unique privilege of substitute teaching at McKinley Elementary in Mrs. Thurnau’s third grade classroom. This came after a United Way challenge in our district this year where any employee who matched my annual donation amount was entered into a drawing to have the superintendent substitute for them for the day. As I prepared for last Friday, I had to admit that I was feeling a bit of anxiety. It had been more than a few years since I taught one particular class for the whole school day. I shared with others that I can speak to more than 1,000 people in an auditorium without feeling any sense of angst, but this experience was making me nervous. Just when I started to rethink my decision, one of my third grade teammates appeared. "Good morning, Mr. Elstad, it’s going to be a great day and I am so glad you are here!” Immediately, my anxiety vanished and I was ready for the day. The power of positive words and a friendly smile are amazing.


The best part of my day was the hugs I received from students as they walked to the bus when they were leaving. MY. HEART. MELTED! I left McKinley last Friday feeling exhausted, but so grateful for our staff and students. Thank you for affirming and re-grounding me around my “why.” Every day I get the distinct pleasure and privilege to shape our future. I get to communicate the potential and excellence of our staff and students so clearly that they begin to see it in themselves.


A special thank you to the staff at McKinley for putting up with the “newbie,” and the understanding of the students in 3D. I certainly learned a lot more from them than they did from me. I LOVE MY JOB!


Click the 'Elstad Sub For a Day' video below to get a glimpse of the fun had by everyone.

#Inspiring Excellence Spotlight

Congratulations to Matt Oeltjenbruns and Brady Vaith for being February's #InspiringExcellence Spotlight. Matt and Brady (who happen to be cousins) serve as School Resource Officers (SRO) for the Owatonna Public School District.


Matt Oeltjenbruns has worked as the SRO for Owatonna Middle School and the four elementary schools for the last four years. He's always had a passion for working with youth, so he was excited for the opportunity to become an SRO for the district. Here, he builds relationships with students that will last for years to come.


Brady Vaith has worked as the SRO for Owatonna High School and ALC for the past three years. He echoed Matt's passion for working with youth, and he enjoys the change of pace that being an SRO brings. He also recently joined the coaching staff for the OHS Trap Team.


When asked what they think is the biggest difference between being an SRO and a street patrol officer, they explained that working in the schools allows you to see more good than bad. They get to build relationships with students by being present in the halls and lunchrooms. They also assist staff in the classrooms with teaching wellness and safety in topics such as the importance of living a drug-free life, and social media safety.


Being an SRO is as much about being proactive and building relationships with the students as it is about being reactive and assisting staff when students make poor decisions. Both Matt and Brady say that building relationships with students is key to their success. When school is not in session, both officers return to the Owatonna Police Department where they assist with detective/investigative work centered around youth cases.


Both Matt and Brady are Owatonna graduates who are raising their families in Owatonna.


Thank you, Matt and Brady, for helping us create a safe and caring community for our students, staff and community!

May 14, 2019 Special Election: New High School

In July, the Board authorized Superintendent Jeff Elstad to form a Community Task Force on Facilities to study the Owatonna Public Schools’ facilities and to develop and update a comprehensive, long-range Facilities Master Plan for recommendation to the School Board. After studying several options, the Task Force came to the Board on November 26 with a recommendation to build a new high school, and their recommendation was discussed further at the December 3, 2018 work session during which three local businesses came forward in support of a new high school, offering generous financial support.


At a special board meeting on February 4, the Board approved an amended Resolution Relating to Determining the Necessity of Issuing General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $116 million and Calling a Special Election on May 14, 2019. The amount of $116 million was determined after a generous gift from Federated Insurance of $20 million and an additional corporate gift of $2 million brought the amount required to build a new high school down from $138 million. More information regarding the most recent corporate gift will be coming in the near future. Additional in-kind gifts from our business community are difficult to monetize at this time due to the design and total costs not yet determined.


What a generous and amazing community we have here at Owatonna! We can't thank our community partners enough for their financial support to help drive down the cost of a new high school and their continued support of our school district.

High School Tours Open to the Public

The Owatonna Senior High School will host school tours in the weeks leading up to the May 14 election when voters will be asked to consider a building bond referendum for a new high school.


The tours are open to the public and will be conducted between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Tours will begin every half hour near the auditorium doors.


Upcoming tour dates are:


  • Saturday, February 16
  • Saturday, March 2
  • Saturday, March 16
  • Saturday, April 13
  • Saturday, April 27
  • Saturday, May 11


CLICK HERE to read over the Tour Guide Fact Sheet provided to community members on the tour.

Kindergarten Registration Now Online

For the 2019-2020 school year, all registrations to Owatonna Public Schools, including kindergarten registration, will be completed online. The registration form is translated into English, Spanish and Somali.


CLICK HERE to register your child for kindergarten by February 15, 2019.


*Please Note: Using a cell phone to complete the online registration form is not recommended. If you do not have internet or a computer, you can visit Roosevelt Community School (122 East McKinley Street) or the Owatonna Public Library.

Montessori Program Information

What is Montessori Education?

The Montessori approach to education embraces individualized instruction for children, mixed-age groupings of students, a structured curriculum, and a prepared environment, using specialized Montessori teaching materials. Montessori classrooms provide an environment that supports independent, self-directed learning, and self-assessment.


Dr. Maria Montessori, who developed this educational program, believed strongly that parents play a critical role in their child’s education.


Montessori students display:

  • Self-directed work habits

  • High level of responsibility to work independently

  • Enjoy hands-on learning


There are two Montessori classrooms:

  • E1 - Grades 1-3

  • E2 - Grades 4-6


If you are interested in the Montessori program at the Owatonna Public Schools, please complete the Enrollment form by February 15th and return it to your neighborhood school. Montessori is housed at Washington Elementary, 423 14th Street NE, Owatonna, MN. The administration will review student registrants for grade level balance and instructional needs. However, the primary basis for selection will be first come/first serve.


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Beth Svenby at Washington Elementary School 507-444-8300