Another alumnus of the Saint Mary’s University Graduate School of Education has been named to a leadership role in a Minnesota school district. Stephen West has been named the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) superintendent and will begin July 1.

“Winona is committed to changing where they are academically, and they believe in success for every child,” West said. “That was clear to me when I interviewed with the board and community members. I thought, ‘what a wonderful opportunity to lead a system like that.’ Let’s see if we can make some really significant changes in the system. There are a lot of positives for this beautiful town.”

Before his administrative career, West taught for 12 years in south Texas and Burnsville, Minn. It was in Burnsville where he went on to become the dean of students and eventually assistant principal. Then, West was principal at Richfield Public Schools for five years before going to Eden Prairie as executive director of educational services in 2011 — a large district of 9,100 students and more than 600 teachers.

West attributes some of his success to Saint Mary’s University, the school where he earned his master’s (1998) and doctorate (2009).

“All my classes at Saint Mary’s have set me up to be prepared for superintendency,” West said. “I would not apply for a superintendent position without the work I’ve done at Saint Mary’s. I feel like I’m uniquely qualified and ready to go; they prepared me to do this.”

One of West’s goals in this new position is strengthening the bond between Winona Senior High School’s graduates and local post-secondary options, including Saint Mary’s. He intends on staying in touch with his alma mater, and if his schedule allows, he’d like to teach as an adjunct.

West’s hiring is significant for the community in part because he is the first African-American superintendent in district history. Many of West’s colleagues have been congratulating him — including Brother William Mann, FSC, president of Saint Mary’s University.

“I really want to thank the Winona community for taking a chance,” West said. “I know that’s a big deal. I’m the first person of color to lead the district, and that’s unique. I am going to make them proud — they picked the right guy.”

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