Frank Norton and his wife, Pam

New Red Wing interim Superintendent Frank Norton and his wife, Pam. Submitted photo

Frank Norton – the new interim superintendent of Red Wing Public Schools for 2022-2023 – was inspired to become a teacher in fifth grade.

“I emulated my fifth-grade teacher,” Norton said. “See I was a very quiet kid, rarely speaking and almost selective mute. My teacher though,  according to my family, kind of brought me out of my shell.”

Norton’s teacher put him in a production, encouraging him that he could speak and perform in front of the student body.

“I was scared to death, but she told me I could do it.” he said.

After fifth grade, Norton started talking more and got involved in school activities.

“She just sort of brought me out of my shell, and I thought, ‘Well, I can do that for people,’” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I got interested in helping students in special [education.] I wanted to create opportunities for kids to be able to excel.”

Norton went on to have a 28-year career in education, spending most of that in New Richmond, Wisconsin. His past roles have included special services teacher, assistant special education director and elementary principal.

In November 2021, Norton became Red Wing High School’s interim principal, taking over for George Nemanich after he went on medical leave. 

“After retiring in Wisconsin, I wanted to get an interim position and see what Minnesota had to offer,” he said. “Red Wing was the perfect place to jump into.”

Nemanich is now back in his position.

Earlier this month, Norton took on the role of acting superintendent for the district during its candidate selection process. He was offered the interim position on June 28.

When asked who his career role models have been, Norton answered quickly; other teachers.

“In Red Wing and before, I had the opportunity to watch some amazing teachers and learn from them. They are my role models.”

As Norton prepares for his new position, he said his philosophy is to put an emphasis on the social and emotional component of a child.

“I think your school and your district function when we build a community as opposed to just focusing on the process of educating kids,” he said. “I think it really takes a step beyond just instruction. You have to be able to build their emotional skills and resilience so that they can become a part of a community. It’s about relationships.”

To make more community connections, Norton plans to visit the Prairie Island Indian Community as soon as possible.

“Something I didn’t know coming from Wisconsin was the incredible connection between the Red Wing community and Prairie Island,” Norton said. “It’s so strong and is becoming stronger. I plan to go there and meet them, rather than anybody having to come to me.”

Besides Prairie Island, Norton said he wants to earn 100 contacts in his first 100 days.

“I want to meet people,” he said. “Just to get out to whoever will have me and make [those] relationships.”

With his prior experience at the high school, Norton is ready to deepen his connections with student groups, including the Black Student Union.

“I have met with [group leader] Deyahni a couple times already, and I’m anxious to be able to continue that relationship with the organization,” he said. “I also want to build relationships with the younger kids and elementary schools as I will now [be a part of that].”

While fostering those relationships, three main challenges Norton wants to work on are:

  • The coming referendum.

  • Helping students continue the transition to in-person learning.

  • Staffing.

“Staffing is a national issue right now as less people are going into education,” he said. “The referendum will be a constant conversation for a while. I want to help educate the community to understand the importance of it.”

The district will be asking two questions of voters on Nov. 8 as they try to renew the 2018 referendum.

Those levies include $1,200 per student and an additional $450 per student, raising the total to $1,650 per student. 

As for Norton, he is excited to get started as superintendent. He is expected to start sometime in July once contract negotiations are completed.

“I’m anxious to start building relationships with staff and students,” he said.

When staff and students come into his office, they will find a comfortable space. 

“I will have a few photos of Red Wing  . . . my three kids and wife up to remind me of community,” he said.

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