Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnum's Superintendent retiring


Lois Johnson

Barnum Superintendent Dave Bottem is retiring at the end of June.

Barnum Superintendent Dave Bottem will be retiring at the end of June after a 36-year career in Barnum and six years of being the elementary principal in Hinckley.

"I won't have to get up at 4 a.m. and do road checks anymore," he said in a recent interview.

Bottem had to check the condition of the road just a few days earlier, on Thursday, May 9, after a heavy snow of several inches. School was not canceled that day, as it had been during the winter.

Bottem said that he grew up in St. James, Minnesota (located south of Mankato).

He went to Concordia College in Moorhead and graduated in 1977. He started his teaching career in Barnum at the elementary school.

"I was supposed to teach the fifth grade but when I came in for my first workday, I found out that I was teaching the second grade," he recalled. "I was all ready to teach the fifth grade so I had to change everything that I had prepared."

Over the next 18 years, Bottem said that he taught first, second, third and sixth graders.

Bottem said that he has fond memories of Harry Post, who was the principal of Barnum Elementary for most of those years.

There was an issue that Bottem brought to the board back in those days.

"I went to the board and told them that the school needed to be smoke free," he said. "The board did not pass it the first time that I gave them the information. But I went back a second time and it passed. There were several smokers on the board."

As Bottem looks back now that the smoking is banned in most public places, he said, "My, how things have changed!"

Bottem also has fond memories of Bernice Gresczyk, who taught at Barnum Elementary for many years.

"She knew families and relatives of the students," she said. "She knew who was related to who."

He also said that Lori Koski, who is still the choir director at Barnum, had just started teaching half-time in the elementary school before he left the school.

As Bottem gained experience, he looked to more advanced positions. He took training and then became the elementary principal in Hinckley for six years.

"I had studied for my Master's in Education at UMD," he said. "And then I took a second master's course in administration at St. Cloud State when I was in Hinckley."

Bottem said that was back in the days when there were no online classes. He had to go to the college to attend the classes.

While in Barnum, Bottem was also a football coach with Steve Brandt, the high school science teacher. Brandt later became the high school principal until he retired.

"I coached for 15 years," he said. "When I started we were still playing on the football field where the old school had been. We gradually came to the fields at the new school after the fields were done."

Bottem said that he watched the transition of superintendents during his years of teaching.

"There were eight superintendents when I was teaching here," he said. "That was quite the turnover. Laverne Baldwin had hired me."

Bottem was hired as the superintendent in 2001 and has spent the last 18 years in administration of the school.

"I have helped hire 75 to 80 percent of the staff that are still here," he said. "The staff is what makes the school. We are all part of one big family. That's what I am going to miss the most."

Bottem also feels that the Barnum School District is on the right path.

"Instead of being in competition with each other, we are working with area schools to share educational costs and to learn from each other. That will bode us well in the future."

Bottem also talked about the two school buildings for the elementary and high school.

"Since the elementary school was built in 1962, we have had several additions built onto the building," he said. "The high school was built in 1982 and opened in 1983. We have kept the building usable and viable; we have taken care of what we have. We are good stewards to the taxpayers. That's something that I am proud of too."

As Bottem thought about the many school board members that he has worked with over the years, he said, "The board members change with each election. Each one has his or her own personality. They change the flavor of the board but that keeps it interesting. They are a good representation of the community."

Bottem and his wife, Deb, married in 1976, their senior year in college, and love their home. They don't plan to leave the area, he said. The couple does not have children.

"Deb is the brains of the family and my best friend," said Bottem. "I would not be doing this without her support."

In his retirement years, Bottem said that he plans to do more fishing, and some travel is in their future plans.

"We do enjoy three of the four seasons," he said. "If we travel it will be in the spring. We enjoy it here. This is a beautiful place to live. We've been here my whole career. I plan on moving at a slower pace and taking our time. It is going to be fun!"


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