Westrum begins tenure as superintendent at WDC
Day One for Lee Westrum started about 7 a.m.
Ten hours later, after a day filled with meetings with administrators and staff, as well as community members stopping by to welcome him, Westrum is one of the last to leave the District Office.
That’s all in a day’s work for the new superintendent of Wadena-Deer Creek Schools.
Westrum began his position on July 1. Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Dahlstrom held the post for five years before retiring in June.
Throughout his first few weeks, a steady stream of people file in and out of Westrum’s office, where he is meeting individually with WDC school board members, principals and staff. He’s toured all of the district’s facilities in Wadena and Deer Creek and even met some of the teaching staff.
“I have met many WDC teachers and staff members who have dropped in to introduce themselves and say hi,” Westrum said. “I have also had the opportunity to meet many community leaders at Rotary, through working on a grant application, and through organizing the Minnesota Supreme Court visit for this coming October.”
Westrum, 44, comes to Wadena from Benson, Minn., where he served as superintendent since 2007. Prior to that, Westrum climbed the ranks at Benson Public Schools starting in 1992 as a social studies teacher to activities director, principal and eventually, superintendent. Benson Public School’s enrollment is around 900 – comparable to Wadena’s 1,000-plus students.
After spending 21 years at Benson, Westrum was ready to move on to the challenge of being superintendent at WDC and to be closer to family in central Minnesota. So far, he is quite impressed with school staff and the community.
“I am very impressed,” Westrum said. “The school board and staff are committed to providing a great education for our students. I am excited to be part of the team.”
A native of Clearbrook, located in northwestern Minnesota, Westrum received his bachelor’s degree in social studies education from Bemidji State University and his educational administration degrees from St. Cloud State University.
Westrum describes his leadership style as “collaborative.”
“I am a collaborative leader and I believe strongly in the concept of ‘team.’ When we all work together, we can accomplish great things,” Westrum said.
Besides being a seasoned educator, Westrum brings leadership experience that extends beyond the walls of the school. He was elected three times to the Benson City Council, serving from 1999-2007.
Westrum also has a strong connection to the Wadena-Deer Creek community. His wife, Jennifer (Carter) is a 1989 graduate of Wadena High School.
“It feels like home,” he said. “I am very comfortable here and Jennifer is excited to be back in her hometown. It has been a lot of fun seeing some of our old friends, but it has been equally as much fun meeting new people. And I have to say that my family has felt genuinely welcomed by the community. People have been very kind and generous.”
The Westrums have two daughters, Abby, an eighth-grader, and Allison, a second-grader. As a family, they enjoy camping, fishing, swimming and going to games. Right now though, they are busy getting settled into their new home in southwest Wadena, unpacking boxes and oftentimes stopping to answer the door, where a neighbor or friend will drop off a homemade coffee cake or extend a warm welcome.
With one school board meeting under his belt, a new greenhouse in the works, the start of school just five weeks away, and reviewing the school district’s strategic plan and budget, Westrum is hitting the ground running as WDC’s next superintendent.
WDC Middle/High School Principal Tyler Church said he is enjoying the opportunity to work with and learn from Westrum.
“It’s been evident he wants to come in and work with everyone to continue the many great things we have going on in our district,” Church said. “He also brings a new perspective and has shared with us ideas that will make our district an even better place to be.”