Graduation time for Mr. Blatti
WORTHINGTON -- Later this month, Bruce Blatti will participate in his final graduation ceremony at Worthington High School.
It may be an emotional day. Blatti is stepping down this spring after serving District 518 for 20 years as its high school principal.
"It's going to be tough not to be around the young people, like I have been. They are fun. They're enjoyable," Blatti said, thoughtfully looking back on his career. "I'm sure at graduation, it's going to hit home. It's always been that when students graduate, I don't get to see them. This year it's going to be different because when the kids go, so do I."
Blatti's story begins in New Hampton, Iowa, where he graduated from high school. He went on to study at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, before serving in the Navy from 1967 to 1971. He received his master's degree at the University of Virginia, taught social studies and served as curriculum director in La Crescent. After more college work at Winona, he returned to La Crescent and assumed one of the principal positions there.
Then it was on to Worthington, where he and his wife, Dana, put down roots. It was in Worthington that the Blattis' children, Lisa, Brian and Laura, completed their high school educations.
After the children graduated, Bruce and Dana decided to consider another move. There were at least two job offers, but by then Worthington's charm had deepened.
"It just didn't seem that it was as good a match as what we had in Worthington. So we ended up staying here. We haven't regretted it," said the veteran educator.
"One of the key factors that kept us here was the high school student body," he continued. "Year after year after year, they've been great students to work with. They're responsible, they're considerate, they respect each other. They respect our building. And the second reason is the staff here at the high school. Just the entire staff at the high school has been great to work with."
Superintendent John Landgaard counts himself as one who is glad Blatti stayed in Worthington.
"Bruce has been one of the best administrators I've ever worked with," said Landgaard, who arrived in Worthington near the end of Blatti's tenure. "He's going to be missed, and I think people won't appreciate the job he's done until after he's gone."
In 2005, Blatti was named the Minnesota High School Principal of the Year, and in that same year he was nominated for the national award. He served as secretary for the Southwest Conference for several years. He served for several years as secretary for the Southwest Division of Minnesota Principals. He served on various state committees.
But when asked from where he derives his greatest satisfaction at WHS, he talks about something else.
"I think the atmosphere we have in our building," he answered. "It's an atmosphere of respect for each other. It's an atmosphere that has expectations, and it's a place where students can come and feel safe, that they're happy to come here, and that teachers can come here and be excited about working at Worthington High School."
There have been many changes in 20 years.
"When I came here it was less than 1 percent diversity in the high school, and that probably amounted to two or three students. And now the high school is running 30-some percent," he said. "It came so fast. I think early-on, there was stress and anxiety. How do we adapt, how do we adjust, how do we change -- how do we meet the needs of a diverse learner situation?'' he recalled. "Students came to us with a much wider range of needs, essentially the communication skills -- reading, writing, speaking."
Stress returned, he said, after state and national leaders mandated more tests. But Blatti has persisted. After 20 years he has managed to retain his trademark optimism and his ready smile.
In retirement, the Blattis plan to spend more time with their children and grandchildren. Bruce, a devoted fan of Lionel trains, said he would like to build "a really nice layout" after his tenure at WHS is complete.
"The disappointments have been so few," he said, perhaps predictably. "But I think the most recent disappointment has been the failure of the referendum last fall. Students need to be a priority, and referendums shouldn't be an issue about a person or some decision that was or wasn't made. Referendums need to be about what's best for students and our community.
"It's not just about the school, it's about the community. Because if schools aren't successful, generally the community is not successful."