This June marks the end of Dr. Michael Lovett’s nine years as superintendent of White Bear Lake Area Schools. In his nearly decade-long role, Lovett’s presence—whether it was visiting preschoolers in their classrooms, attending high school sporting events or mentoring administrators and teachers—will be greatly missed.
Originally from Richfield, Lovett attended Carleton College in Northfield and graduated in 1970 with a B.A. in history, an educator’s license and an eagerness to teach young minds. After studying abroad for part of his college studies, Lovett was offered a teaching job in Smithtown, N.Y. “I was gone for six months in Japan, came back and did my student teaching, wrapped up my courses, graduated, then got ready to go to New York,” he recalls. “That was a lively time in my life.”
After a year of teaching, Lovett found his way back to his home state of Minnesota. “I had been casting around whether I wanted to go into medicine, law or continuing education,” Lovett says. Through a friend, Lovett met Tom Stark, a professor in the educational administration program at the University of Minnesota. “I decided I wanted to be like him,” Lovett says. “He’d been a school superintendent, just a remarkable man, and he met with me and encouraged me to enroll in the [administration] program.”
Lovett completed both his master’s degree and his Ph.D. studies at the University of Minnesota. In 1979, he began work at the Minnesota Department of Education, where he would remain for five years. Lovett became the assistant superintendent for instruction in human resources for the Minnetonka Public Schools in 1988. “I was in Minnetonka for 20 years,” Lovett says. Lovett and his wife raised four children, who graduated from the Minnetonka public school system.
Then, on July 1, 2008, I came to White Bear Lake as school superintendent,” Lovett says. He and his wife made the move to White Bear Lake because, as he puts it, “it’s important for a school superintendent to live in the community where [he or she]
And true to his statement, Lovett fully immersed himself in the White Bear Lake community.
From attending community events to making meaningful connections with staff, students and families in the district, Lovett worked with other leaders to build and create a strong school system. Lovett got to work scheduling time with each of the school’s administrators, listening to needs and planning future opportunities for students. His responsibilities included leading over 1,000 employees, overseeing nearly 9,000 students and managing a multimillion-dollar budget.
Although Lovett says he will dearly miss his role as superintendent, he says a growing desire for flexibility and to be with family made the timing for retirement right. “The district is in very good condition right now, with a solid financial condition, increasing enrollment, improving student performance, and I thought, there’s no real reason for me to wait longer; it’s a natural time for me to at least take a break and reacquaint myself with my family before deciding what I want to do next.”
With children currently living in San Francisco, Denver, New York and Tampa, Fla., Lovett looks forward to spending more time in retirement traveling to see them. An outdoor enthusiast, he’s eager to spend summer days running, hiking and biking.
There are many things he will miss about his much-loved role as superintendent, but one aspect in particular stands out. “For the better part of 47 years, part of my day has always been to be with students, talking to them, watching their learning, cheering them on at a sporting contest, admiring their work in music or in drama,” Lovett says. “For 47 years that has been part of my daily experience and I don’t know yet what will replace that.”
As to what his next career move might be, Lovett has several ideas. “When I was in high school, my aspiration was to be secretary-general of the United Nations. Even then I had a keen interest in international relations, cultures, politics,” Lovett says. “Those international connections, I think, are an important contribution to a peaceful world.”
And knowing Lovett, his ability to impact lives, his passion for people and his constant resolve to make a change for the better, that just might happen for him yet.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Principal of Lincoln Elementary School
“[An] impressive aspect of Dr. Lovett’s leadership was his willingness to engage our schools through meaningful community partnerships that enrich the students’ experiences. Through [these] partnerships, our community’s children have gained enlightened experiences through specialized K-5 world-language opportunities, a series of classroom art sessions, introductory swimming lessons and orchestra.”
WBLAHS choir teacher and fall musical director
“When he came to our district, our theaters were literally falling apart,” she says. “He instantly saw the students’ and community’s passion for theater and music, and prioritized the improvement of our performance spaces.”
Former school board member and a community partner through the White Bear Center for the Arts
“His leadership style brought him into the classroom, quite often sitting in a circle reading to the district’s youngest students, and onto the competitive stages of co-curricular activities, donning his iconic orange-and-black White Bear scarf.”
Reading teacher at Willow Lane Elementary School
“He surrounds himself with exceptional leaders who value and celebrate the work of others, [establishing] a collaborative, empowering school district that people are excited to be a part of. He works very hard to build relationships with staff, students and families, and it’s quite impressive how well he remembers names of everyone he meets.”