Olson retires as school superintendent
By Chad Koenen
Melissa Sparks officially began her duties at Henning School last week and said her family is excited about the opportunity to be a part of the greater Henning area.
Sparks takes over for interim superintendent Barry Olson, who came out of retirement to guide the school district as a superintendant on a one year contract, as the new school superintendent.
Prior to coming to Henning, Sparks spent the past 26 years working for the MACCRAY School District, which is located in Clara City, Minn. She started as a band teacher, before she was hired for a school counseling position. She held that position for 16 years before being hired as the high school principal, a position she has held for the past six years.
As she was looking for opportunities to become a school superintendent, Sparks said there were a few words that really stuck out to her about the Henning School Superintendant position. She said the help wanted ad said the district was looking for someone to join the district for longevity. She hopes to fill that request and be in Henning for a long time to come.
“I’m just hoping to make this our new home for a long time and I am excited to have the opportunity to do that,” she said.
Along with her husband Vic, the family has three children, including a daughter who will be a fourth grader at Henning next year. Sparks said her daughter is excited for this new adventure and is looking forward to making new friends and becoming involved in school activities.
The family recently purchased a home near the school and said the community has been very welcoming since moving to town.
“The whole community is so friendly,” she said. “I can’t say enough about how welcoming everyone has been.”
Sparks said her family has always enjoyed the lakes area. When her children were younger the family would spend a lot of time in the Lake Osakis area and is excited to call Henning their new home.
Outside of work and attending her children’s activities, Sparks enjoys reading, going for walks and her family has been actively involved in church and community activities.
Sparks said she is looking forward to being a part of the Henning School District and the community. She is also looking forward to working with the staff and being a part of a community that supports and takes pride in its school like Henning has done in the past.
One year after taking over as the school superintendent on an interim basis, Olson said he is ready to head back into retirement—for a second time. Even though he was only in town for one year, on a part-time basis, Olson said he enjoyed his time in Henning and the school as a whole.
“The town of Henning and community has been good to work with. It is a good little community so I have enjoyed that,” he said. “The staff and administration has been great to work with. I am pleased with the staff, they are very professional and great to work with.”
After coming out of retirement in 2020, after 44 years in the education profession, Olson said he is planning to stay retired this time around. He said he enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the Henning community and school, while also staying busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, as opposed to being at home for the past year. He enjoyed his past year as interim superintendent and said Henning has quite a bit going for it in the future.
“I think there are a lot of great things going for Henning,” he said.
That being said, Olson said Henning will need to address two pressing issues in the community to help the town and school continue to grow. He said there is a need in daycare and a big housing shortage in town, like many communities in the region.
Olson’s final day in Henning was on June 30. Prior to coming to Henning he was the long-time educator and superintendent at Blooming Prairie.