TOWER- For Frank Zobitz, education is a family tradition.His father, Francis, was a well-loved and long-time teacher at the Tower-Soudan High School. Most of his seven siblings went into education as …
TOWER- For Frank Zobitz, education is a family tradition.
His father, Francis, was a well-loved and long-time teacher at the Tower-Soudan High School. Most of his seven siblings went into education as well, and his wife, Suzanne, teaches high school Spanish at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.
And the tradition continues. The couple’s oldest daughter, Hannah, is an elementary teacher at a charter school in Minneapolis.
Zobitz is now back in Tower, as the new school administrator at the Vermilion Country School, and he brings a solid resumé in education, both at the high school and college level, along with extensive experience in computers and technology. He most recently worked for the state of Minnesota as an Information Technology Specialist and Senior Project Manager. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, graduate coursework in education, a Minnesota teaching license for grades 7-12 in business education/economics, and a master’s degree in Management of Technology.
Zobitz’s technology background is coming at a crucial time for the grades 7-12 charter school, which just received a Blandin Foundation grant to upgrade the school’s Internet technology and take advantage of recently-installed fiber optic cable at the school.
“Being connected through fiber is key to being a part of the global community,” said Zobitz. “There is a lot of stuff out there we can tap into.”
The broadband grant will also allow the school to offer community education classes to the wider community, as well as offering students many more online opportunities in both academics and the arts.
Zobitz will be working with the school’s staff to make sure the grant dollars are used in ways that will benefit the school and the community well into the future.
Zobitz has plenty of experience working with teenagers, having taught high school for eight years. And he is eager to provide leadership at the school and continue the school’s advances in meeting the educational needs of its student body.
“I want to continue the progress that the school has made,” he said. This past year VCS was given a five-year contract extension from its authorizer, Audubon Center of the Northwoods, which is one of the largest charter school authorizers in Minnesota. VCS was the only school given a five-year contract last year, and the decision was based on the school’s strong record of showing measurable academic progress for its students.
Zobitz said the school’s largest challenge at this point is enrollment. The school attracts students from a 30-mile radius but would like to increase student numbers from the low 40s to closer to 50, which would allow the school to hire additional teaching staff.
Zobitz said providing a solid educational foundation, which VCS does, will help in recruiting new students.
Zobitz is also looking forward to providing support for the school’s teaching staff.
He noted that the teaching staff at VCS is experienced and dedicated to what they do.
“There is energy here that is fun to see,” he said.
Given his family’s involvement in education, he knows how busy and stressful the lives of teachers can be. “I want our teachers to enjoy coming here every day, and make their work less stressful,” he said.
Zobitz said his goal is to provide organizational direction without micromanaging. The school has a teacher-team model, with the licensed teaching staff overseeing curriculum, classes, and student life.
Zobitz’s first day on the job was Aug. 1. While he began getting familiar with the school and his new responsibilities, he worked with returning school staff as they planned out teacher and staff training to be held later in the month.
VCS also has two new teachers coming on board. Kelly Wilkinson is the school’s new special education teacher, and Bradley Neyens is the new social studies teacher. All the school’s other staff are returning for the new school year, including teachers Paula Herbranson, Karin Schmidt, and Allan White; and paraprofessionals Michelle Maki, Morgen Carlon, and Mandy Northrup. Office manager Jolene Herberg and kitchen manager Cindy Pettinelli are both returning, along with the school’s transportation team. Former school administrator and social studies teacher Kevin Fitton has left for a new job after his five-year stint at VCS.
Zobitz and his wife bought a home on Pike Bay several years ago, not far from where his mother Joan still lives. They’ve been spending as much time as possible there the past few years, and now Frank is happy to be here full-time, and Suzanne is hoping to follow him up here permanently soon.
“We really appreciate what northern Minnesota has to offer,” he said. “And personally, I was ready to get out of the rat race in the cities.”
VCS is planning a community open house and first day of school celebration on Thursday, Aug. 29. Students will attend all day, and the public is invited from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Anyone interested in learning more about the school or scheduling a tour can call the school at 218-753-1246 (please leave a message, school staff is part-time in the summer), or by emailing Frank Zobitz at email@example.com.