Feature Stories

Dr. Dennis Peterson to Retire After 21 Years as Minnetonka Schools Superintendent

Dr. Dennis Peterson, Superintendent of Minnetonka Public Schools, announced today that he will be retiring at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

Dr. Peterson has served as Superintendent for Minnetonka Schools for nearly 21 years. He began leading the District at a time when there was declining enrollment and budget shortfalls. Over the past two decades, he has built Minnetonka into a District with a reputation for excellence in education and innovation. It is now recognized among the best public school districts in the state and nation. Dr. Peterson leads with an expectation for excellence in all aspects of the organization and believes there is no limit to what a child can learn.

During his tenure with Minnetonka Schools, student achievement increased by every academic measure, including the average ACT score climbing from 23.1 to 27.7, and 86% of high school seniors enrolling in college. The District is a national leader in using classroom technology as an accelerator of learning, is recognized as the Best School District, Best High School and Best Place to Teach in Minnesota and among the Best School Districts in the U.S. (Niche.com), as well as among the Best Communities for Music Education (National Association of Music Merchants). Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was halting a pattern of annual budget-cutting after 2005 and focusing on innovation and growth for the District to thrive during the great recession and beyond—offering new learning opportunities for students.

“Leading this incredible school district has been the highlight of my career,” said Dr. Peterson. “It has been a privilege to work alongside each of our exceptional teachers and administrators and with our outstanding School Board members throughout the years. I’m proud of all we have all accomplished together and of the myriad educational opportunities and pathways we have developed for our students. It has been my great honor to serve the students and families of this district, and I will continue to do so to the best of my ability throughout the remaining months of my superintendency.”

Dr. Peterson’s courageous leadership has supported new opportunities for children, including the International Baccalaureate Program, Chinese and Spanish Language Immersion, Minnetonka Research, the Navigator Program, VANTAGE, Tonka Online, Tonka Codes, MOMENTUM, personalized learning, intensive interventions, personal pathways for learning and improved rigor at all levels. This year, the District launched a K-12 online school and the Students Achieving Independent Life (S.A.I.L.) program, which serves young adults with special needs, ages 18-21.

The District has modernized all school facilities, earned Energy Star Leadership awards, joined Minnesota’s Q-Comp program (performance pay for teachers), rebuilt community pride in its schools, improved communications, initiated open enrollment, and secured necessary funding through voter-approved referenda, legislative advocacy, marketing and fundraising.

“Dr. Peterson has been a treasure for our District,” said Chris Vitale, School Board Chair. “His visionary leadership has catapulted Minnetonka Schools to one of the best school districts in the nation and has helped to ensure that each child that enters our schools has the opportunity to achieve their potential. On behalf of the Board and the community, I want to thank Dr. Peterson for all he has done and continues to do for Minnetonka Schools, its students, families and staff.”

Dr. Peterson has earned the following state and national awards: American Association of School Administrators (AASA) President’s Award for Vision and Leadership in Technology (2005), eSchoolNews Tech Savvy Superintendent Award (2006), ERDI Excellence in Educational Leadership Award (2007), Minnesota Superintendent of the Year (2009), Minnesota Excellence in Communications Leadership Award (2014) and "Builder of Legacy Impact" Hall of Fame Award, given by Humanex Ventures. The District has also earned a National School Boards Association (NSBA) Magna Award for Marketing School Choice, an Apple Distinguished Program Award for the iPad Project and three NSBA educational technology recognitions (2007, 2008, and 2014).

Dr. Peterson began his career as a teacher in Clark County (NV). He accepted his first superintendency in 1967 in Bison, South Dakota. His career of service includes Boulder Valley School District and Mounds View School District (MN) in assistant superintendent roles. He served as the superintendent in Southland School District (MN), Mitchell School District (SD), Laramie County School District (WY), Rockwood School District (MO) and Princeton City School District (OH). He has provided testimony to legislative committees in every state in which he served as a superintendent. He was honored as Outstanding Superintendent in South Dakota (1985) and named to the “100 Top School Administrators in America” NSBA (1987). He has served as President of the School Administrators of South Dakota, President of the AASA Scholarship Senate, Chair for the Alliance for Adequate School Funding (OH), Chair of the Executive Committee of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (MN), Program Chair for the Midwest Superintendents Conference and member of the Educational Research and Development Institute (since 1997).

Dr. Peterson earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder and completed doctoral work at Stanford University. Both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees were completed at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.

A celebration to honor Dr. Peterson and his legacy will be held at the end of the school year. More details on that will be forthcoming. The School Board will begin an immediate nationwide search for a superintendent to begin serving in July 2022.

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