Some call Harold Enestvedt the “Father of St. Louis Park schools.” He served as superintendent for 24 years, from 1948 until 1972. (Today the average tenure for superintendents nationwide is 3 1/2 years.) He lead Park schools through the tumultuous period of growth in the 1950s and 60s.
Harold Roscoe Enestvedt was born in 1907 in Belview, a tiny town in southwestern Minnesota. He attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he majored in history and mathematics and took the required courses for teaching. Immediately after graduation, he started working on his Masters degree in administration at the University of Minnesota. It took him three summers of heavy course work. His first job was teaching in Watson and Comfry, Minnesota. His next eight years were spent as Superintendent at Sanford, Minnesota. In 1939 he took a job as Superintendent at Sleepy Eye and then moved to Waseca for 3 1/2 years.
In 1948 he began the job as Superintendent of St. Louis Park. When Enestvedt took over, he had to prepare to meet a tremendous growth in the school population. At that time there were 96 teachers and 3,300 students in the public schools. One alarming statistic was that in 1952 there were 171 seniors and 1,018 children in kindergarten. Schools needed to be built, and fast! The process of building a new school building took about three years. To get sufficient space to house the students, classes were held in libraries, cafeterias and corridors. Double shifts were held in the Junior/Senior High in 1954-55 and 1955-56.
Almost every school in the district was either built or enlarged during Enestvedt’s tenure:
- Brookside had a 12 room addition built in 1949.
- The building on Walker Street (St. Louis Park High School until 1958, then Central Junior High) was enlarged in 1952, 1962, and 1967.
- Fern Hill II was built in 1950 on 28th Street to replace the obsolete original Fern Hill on Minnetonka Blvd. Unfortunately the number of students forced the old Fern Hill to stay open; since the name had already been used for the new school, the old school was renamed Park Hill.
- Park Knoll was built in 1952 on Texas Ave., serving the exploding population on the western edge of the Park. By 1960 it served almost 700 students.
- Ethel Baston School was built in 1955 on Highway 100. This school served children in the new housing between Excelsior Blvd. and Highway 7 for the most part.
- Aquila was built in 1957, the year that the peak of the baby boom was born. An addition was built in 1967.
- Cedar Manor was also built in 1957, serving the westernmost area of the Park.
- Westwood Junior High was built in 1959, as Central Junior High was unable to handle the influx of boomers. An addition was built in 1967.
- Peter Hobart was built in 1967, taking pressure off of the overcrowded Lenox.
- Susan Lindgren was built in 1968, just as the largest cohort of the boom was moving to Junior High.
By the school year 1969-70, there were 11,600 students enrolled and there were over 900 employees in the school district. In this period 16 separate building bond issues were enacted. Under Enestvedt the amortization schedules for paying off the bonds was competed in 1981 and at that time the school system was debt free.
One of Enestvedt’s most important decisions was to increase the size of the High School in 1962 (with “the circle” or “the silo”) instead of building a second High School. Many other suburbs followed the latter course, only to regret it when the baby boom passed and they had to close one of the schools.
Enestvedt’s accomplishments were not just about classrooms and class size. He was responsible for establishing a reputation for innovation and excellence that has attracted many families to St. Louis Park. Instructional programs were standardized, and achievement testing, curriculum development and summer remedial programs were introduced. Many of these programs continue today. Teacher contracts under Enestvedt contained a strong incentive for teachers to continue to grow and develop their areas of expertise. They were rewarded on a salary schedule for each 15 credits earned beyond their Bachelor or Masters degrees. Teacher retention was remarkable; students in the 1970s were enjoying the experience of teachers who had been hired in the 1950s.
Harold Enestvedt lived to be 97 years old, passing away in 2005 in Northfield. His strong leadership and foresight has left a lasting mark on St. Louis Park schools.