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Platteville High School principal leaving for Dodgeville
Jeff Jacobson

The principal of Platteville High School is leaving at the end of the school year to become the superintendent of the Dodgeville School District.

Jeff Jacobson was the PHS principal for 15 years. He will be replacing Diane Messer, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

“It’s a very positive school district, I think, a positive community,” said Jacobson. “The school district seems to be in a position where they can strive for good things.

“If I have anything to offer, it’s probably a passion for people and the relationships that it takes for an organization to do well.”

Jacobson admits that, going from one school district to another in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference, “It’s going to feel very strange to come to the stadium and sit on the visitors’ side.”

Jacobson was a finalist for the Milton school district superintendent position last year.

Jacobson started as a high school math and computer science teacher before becoming the principal at Plymouth High School. He came to Platteville in 1999. Jacobson’s father and older brother were both school district superintendents.

“You don’t have as much immediate control” as a superintendent,” he said. “You set the stage, but in almost every case someone else is responsible for getting it done. And that’s a change. That will be a mindset change.”

Jacobson said he will most remember “the people, the kids, the families you get to know well, the kids you get to watch change so drastically. I’ve had a chance to work with really excellent peers.

“I think we have created an atmosphere in the high school where kids enjoy coming to school, where kids are challenged. If you look at our test scores, if you look at 15 years of data, you see 15 years of improvement.”

The Dodgeville school district is growing as school districts closer to Madison, — including, in the SWC, River Valley — are growing.

“I think it will continue to grow,” said Jacobson. “The projections are it will continue, not hugely, and I’ve dealt with growth and decline in enrollment. Growth is more fun.”

As Dodgeville’s superintendent, Jacobson will be dealing with an issue similar to what Platteville is dealing with — buildings. The school district will likely hold a referendum soon to determine upgrades to its buildings, and whether or not to keep open its elementary school in Ridgeway.

“To me, that’s one of the things that’s exciting,” he said.

Platteville superintendent Connie Valenza said Jacobson’s position was posted Monday, with an application deadline of May 13. Finalists will meet with the community, parents and students before a hiring decision is made, she said.

Valenza said all the candidates are likely to be external candidates, as opposed to the last principal the school district hired, Platteville Middle School’s Jason Julius, formerly a PHS teacher. “I could be surprised, but I anticipate all the candidates being external,” she said.

“One of the keys for all of our administrative positions is to not look for an administrator, but to look for someone who is an instructional leader. That’s a little different than in the past. If you look at the various initiatives the state is requiring us to engage in, it really does suggest someone who is pretty strong in instruction and looking at student data and looking at engagement of students.”