Jeff Horton in the Press

Dr. Jeff Horton: Courageous Conversations

In this episode, Dr. Jeff Horton, Superintendent of GFW School District in Minnesota, discusses how he and his community moved from worry to hope through courageous conversations and active listening. Dr. Horton details how to transform the story of your schools in a short time by garnering support from your local community.

Seminar Scoop - Back in the Black: How Engagement Helped a District Get Out of Debt

After two failed referendums put a Minnesota school district on the brink of closing, Superintendent Jeff Horton made bold changes. But how did they persuade the public to support the district?

Organization names Horton a Superintendent to Watch

GIBBON — Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop Schools Superintendent Jeff Horton was recently recognized as a Superintendent to Watch by the National School Public Relations Association.

Horton, who received the award last month, is the first Minnesotan to receive the award since 2018. He was nominated by staff and community members.

The award recognizes school district leaders across the country who demonstrate dynamic, fast-paced leadership with strong communication.

3 superintendents to watch: Focusing on the big picture in a time of crisis

Even while grappling with the upheaval of the pandemic, superintendents also had to remain focused on the long-term health of their districts. That meant continuing to work on the technological, financial and communications challenges that existed before COVID turned everything upside down in March 2020.

Spanning all of the issues above, of course, is academic achievement and the inequities many leaders were working to rectify. Initiatives to better serve all students have only accelerated over the last two years, says Superintendent John-Mark Cain of Mississippi’s rural Lauderdale County School District. “Graduation is no longer the end goal, it’s the starting line,” says Cain, named Mississippi’s 2022 Superintendent of the Year by AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

Big Ideas goes to GFW

GIBBON – The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Middle and High School students talked glowingly about their hands-on virtual reality and simulator technology experience in the high school weight room Friday.

Anna Huges of New Ulm, a sales representative for Big Ideas inc. of New Ulm,  played a key role in opportunities for students to discover, explore, and learn technical and soft skills needed to succeed in skilled traded.

GFW teachers, students talk of tour benefits

GIBBON – The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) school board heard public comments from several teachers and students Tuesday.

Most of the comments were about the school district’s strategic plan in action tour that included visits to a number of other school districts.

Freshman Mitchell Olson said he’d like to see more agriculture classes at GFW.


GFW Board Okays New Hires

GIBBON – The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board unanimously approved new personnel hires Monday.

Actions came on a motion by Mike Kuehn, second by Case Prochniak. New hires include theater/play director Samarah Forster, paraprofessional April Gunderman, head boys basketball coach Ryan Jacobson, van driver Lyna Kaskien, middle/high school head cook Amy Foster, and Nicole Jaus, T-Bird Club.

The school district transportation team was honored in school and community recognition early in the meeting.


Remote learning replaces snow days in some Minnesota school districts

ST. JAMES, Minn. (KEYC) – Snow days may be a thing of the past thanks to remote learning options.

“It’s just a little continuation of what would’ve happened in the classroom today to keep them learning and thinking for the future,” stated Steven Heil, Superintendent at St. James Public School District.

A growing number of districts are opting for online classes instead of traditional weather-related closures.

“We have the opportunity to continue learning when we have emergency situations or when we have inclement weather. Our students, they are continuing to learn, and we feel like that’s really important,” said Jeff Horton, Superintendent at Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop School District.

Meet the NSPRA 2021 Superintendents to Watch

The National School Public Relations Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the  award! This year, 19 superintendents from around the country were selected for the honor in recognition of their innovative and effective use of technology to engage and inform the school community, and to expand two-way communication and outreach efforts.

This  recognizes up to 25 school district leaders each year who have fewer than five years of experience as a superintendent and who demonstrate dynamic, fast-paced leadership with strong communication at its core. Congratulations to this year’s exemplary honorees:

GFW board OKs 2.9% levy decrease

GIBBON — The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board unanimously set the payable 2022 tax levy at $2,520,082.77 Monday.

Action came on a motion by board member Mike Kuehn, seconded by Drew Schmidt. The levy is 2.9% ($74,289) less than the payable 2021 levy.

The levy is a $26 school tax reduction on a $100,000 home, $40 reduction on a $150,000 home, and $53 reduction on a $200,000 home.

Operating levy for GFW School District on ballot

GIBBON, Minn. (KEYC) – Residents in the Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop School District have an additional decision to make on their ballot for Minnesota’s Primary Election Tuesday.

The GFW School District is asking for voters’ approval on an Operating Levy Referendum. This comes after two previous failed referendum votes in 2019 and 2017. The district is currently in statutory operating debt… and they want voters to understand there’s a big difference between a bond referendum and an operating levy.

Operating levy will help GFW maintain programs

GIBBON FAIRFAX WINTHROP — Voters in the Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop School District approved an increase in the operating levy held August 11.

The official vote count was 1,406 “yes” votes and 836 “no” votes. The vote was made official at the school board’s special meeting on Aug. 17.

“GFW voters supported their students and, by extension, our communities, and we’re grateful,” said Jeff Horton, Superintendent. “I want to thank voters for taking the time to become educated on the referendum and casting informed votes. This investment will strengthen our district and help take our students successfully through the next decade.”

GFW details budget, strategic planning

GIBBON — Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Superintendent Jeff Horton wrapped his first 100-day plan and announced next steps for shaping the school district Monday.

Baird Financial Management financial consultants described a new budget model that he said enabled the school district to compare itself with similar-sized school districts including Sibley East, Belle Plaine, Jordan, Central (Norwood-Young America), Watertown-Mayer, Martin County West and Tri-City United.

Citizens comment on GFW debt, taxes

FAIRFAX — Two citizens made public comments at the Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board meeting with about 30 people at the Fairfax Community Center Monday.

There was no dialogue between the citizens and the school board. Comments were limited to two minutes.

Marc Kiecker asked what the total debt of the school district was if it dissolves.

“I’ve asked the question on the GFW (Schools) Facebook page but have not got an answer,” Kiecker said.

Greg Kiecker said he’s a senior property assessor in Minnesota and has been in the property appraisal field for 48 years.

GFW School Board to hear public comments at Fairfax Community Center Monday

FAIRFAX — The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board will hold a regular board meeting to hear public comments at 6:30 p.m., Monday, July 20 at the Fairfax Community Center, 300 S. Park St.

GFW Superintendent Jeff Horton said there will be no dialogue. The board will just listen to public comments.

“As part of our continued effort for transparency, our business manager will do the first of many school finance presentations,” Horton said.

Other agenda items include a resolution to rescind termination of elementary teacher Anne Hansen, and reports from Horton, principal Jennifer Thompson and facility manager Dave Sellner.

Horton’s GFW Schools Facebook site included a post that he will be sending weekly operating levy information to staff and families now.

Learn more about the August 11th GFW Operating Levy Referendum

I would like to take this opportunity to provide information about the future of GFW Schools. Despite years of financial management with a focus on providing opportunities for our students, our school district is facing a financial crisis and is currently in Statutory Operating Debt due to a variety of factors.

  • state revenue has not kept pace with inflation
  • our revenue is less than our neighbors as total school taxes in the GFW school district are currently the lowest in the area
  • we’re losing revenue as fewer students enroll at our schools.

GFW school board OKs bond refinancing

The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board unanimously approved a resolution to refinance “other post-employment benefit” (OPEB) bonds Monday.

According to PMA Securities, $1.1 million in 2009 bonds purchased for staff medical expenses at 5.42% interest would be refinanced at about 2.76%. The move is expected to save taxpayers $27,500 over five years.

“Bonds are at historic lows now,” said Steve Pumper of PMA Securities. “The year-long borrowing interest rate is .4%.”

GFW Public Schools finalizes sale of Fairfax building - retains use of gym space

The agreement includes improvements to the gym for continued community and district use.

At their meeting on Wednesday, December 16, the GFW School Board approved the sale of the Fairfax school building to Retro Companies with an agreement that the gym facility and adjacent areas will remain available for school and community use for decades to come.

As part of his First 100 Day Plan, Superintendent Jeff Horton postponed the sale process and extended the time for offers while committing to a community listing process and full facilities review. The listening tour saw Horton hearing from city and county officials, faith leaders, business owners, parents, community members, students, other local schools, and staff.

GFW School Board adjusts schedule amidst rise in COVID cases

The GFW School Board met for their regular meeting on Monday, November 16 in Winthrop. 

Following the approval of the agenda, the board recognized the Winthrop Honor Guard for their contributions to the local communities and the GFW School District. The Honor Guard has contributed their time and talents, and monetary donations to many school and community events and activities. The Board expressed their gratitude and presented a certificate to the group.

2/11/21 - GFW School Board Votes on Resolution to Discharge Teacher

The GFW School Board voted on a resolution to discharge a teacher during a closed session Monday night, but school officials aren’t naming the educator.

Superintendent Jeff Horton informed SMN of the closed session in response to an inquiry about the employment status of Renee Schmidt, a speech teacher accused of assaulting a six-year-old student.

GFW Board OKs Learning Model Change

After some discussion on just when to do it, the Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday for students in grades 9-12 to return to in-school learning on Monday, Jan. 11.


GFW teacher charged with assaulting student

A teacher at Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop Elementary School is facing criminal charges for reportedly dragging and restraining a child while the 6-year-old screamed that she could not breathe.

GFW OKs resolution for employee facing allegations

The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board unanimously approved a resolution Monday to immediately discharge an employee facing allegations.


GFW teacher accused of malicious punishment of a child

A teacher at Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop Elementary School is facing criminal charges for reportedly dragging and restraining a child while the 6-year-old screamed that she could not breathe.

Minnesota schools grapple with school safety concerns, parental angst

Jeff Horton weighs in on school safety, especially as it relates to Duluth Public Schools.

Duluth Schools Fill Top Positions

Jeff Horton named Assistant Superintendent of Duluth Public Schools.

GFW Superintendent discussed his first 100 day plan

At a special meeting on Monday, new GFW Superintendent Jeff Horton presented his outline for the first 100 days in office. He broke down the plan to two phases, the first running July and early August. He discussed the Districts budget, Covid-19, facilities and a listening tour.

GFW School Board hears proposal for changes to Jr./Sr. High principal position

Jeff Horton explores how GFW school boards responded to proposals for changes to Jr./Sr. High principal positions


GFW to start search for junior-senior high school principal

At a special meeting June 24, the GFW School Board heard new superintendent Jeff Horton’s plan for replacing Principal Justin Johnston. With the School Board deciding to stay with a full-time superintendent, the District needed to find some additional revenue reductions to satisfy the Statutory Operating Debt plan.

Superintendent Jeff Horton To Be AASA National Certification Mentor

Jeff Horton, the Superintendent of the Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop School system, has been named an AASA National Certification Mentor. This role will see him mentoring other superintendents who wish to become nationally certified. 

In this program, Jeff Horton will be covering topics such as:

  • Ethics and Professional Norms for Serving the Students of Today and Tomorrow
  • Promoting Equity and Cultural Responsiveness for Building a Shared Vision of Student Academic Success and Well-Being
  • A Vision for Educational Leadership in the 21st Century
  • Superintendent and Board Relations, Policies and Procedures
  • The Superintendent and the School District’s Communication Plan
  • Organizational Culture: Building and Promoting a Shared Vision for Quality Teaching and Learning
  • Engaging Families, Businesses, Government Agencies, and the Community
  • The Superintendent as an Instructional Leader: Curriculum Assessment and Instruction in the 21st Century
  • The Role of the Superintendent in Promoting the School Improvement Process
  • Addressing Social, Emotional and Academic Learning: Building a Community of Care and support for All Students
  • Building Professional Capacity and Community in the Learning Organization
  • Operations and Management
  • Legislative Advocacy

Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop offering free athletics, activities to students

WINTHROP, Minn. (KEYC) — Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Public Schools is waiving registration fees for athletics and activities for students.

The GFW School Board voted unanimously to waive all activity fees for all students for the next school year.

The district cites a connection between extracurricular activity and academic performance as the motivation behind the move.

Mosaic is physical molding of diversity, perspectives

The Grand has long been a haven for artistic expression and individuals from different backgrounds. Charlie Leftridge, The Grand’s executive director, confirmed many musicians and artists exhibiting their work at The Grand have expressed gratitude for the center as a safe space.

With a recent news story highlighting the need for inclusion in New Ulm, The Grand wanted to further emphasize the center as a place for people to express themselves and explore different backgrounds.

“As a community we want all people to feel welcome and celebrated,” said Tamara Furth, The Grand’s program director.

2/9/21 - GFW Oks resolution for employee facing allegations/newspaper features

GIBBON — The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board unanimously approved a resolution Monday to immediately discharge an employee facing allegations. After 20 minutes in closed session, action came on a motion by board chairman Mike Kuehn, seconded by Jason Haas, for the immediate discharge of a tenured teacher.

GFW Schools to Resume In-Person Classes

The GFW School Board met for a special meeting on Wednesday, December 30 to determine if changes to the current learning model should be made.

GFW board to act on SOD recovery resolution

The GFW School Board voted on a resolution to discharge a teacher during a closed session Monday night, but school officials aren’t naming the educator.

Get Involved with GFW Strategic Planning

GFW Public Schools is developing a strategic plan. The school board is working with the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) to provide guidance and assist with the planning.

New GFW Supt. reveals staffing plans

GIBBON — New Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Schools Superintendent Jeff Horton of Duluth hit the ground running Wednesday, revealing his administrative staffing plans at a special board meeting in the Gibbon Primary School gym.

GFW board OKs contract with new superintendent

The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) school board unanimously approved a three-year contract with new superintendent Jeffery Horton of Duluth Wednesday.

Duluth Public Schools take action against COVID-19

Discover how Jeff Horton and the Duluth Public School system are combatting COVID-19.

Duluth schools, medical providers, homeless shelter prepare to combat spread of coronavirus

Assistant Superintendent Jeff Horton discusses , alongside his colleagues, the measures that are being taken to combat the coronavirus.

Special guests talked with students at the 5th annual book fair

Jeff Horton speaks of Stowe Elementary School’s 5th Annual Book Fair.

GFW gets $40k No Kid Hungry grant

GIBBON — The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board learned Monday that the school district received a $4,000 Share Our Strength organizational grant.

Under the agreement with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization working to end hunger and poverty, GFW Schools agrees to participate as a No Kid Hungry Centering Equity Fund Grant Opportunity Review Partner.

Partners ensure children receive access to nutritious meals and food they need to learn, grow, and reach their full potential.

“I think will be great to do this and we may be able to get future grants,” said GFW Superintendent Jeff Horton. “Continuous Improvement Teams (CIT) of parents and staff collaborate to identify the needs of students based on data and implement evidence-based practices proven to increase student achievement.”

2/5/21 – GFW teacher accused of malicious punishment of a child

GIBBON — A Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) speech teacher accused of placing a six-year-old female student in a bear hug hold and dragging her down two hallways and two flights of stairs last month, faces three charges in Sibley County District Court.

GFW Board to Recognize Student Rep

The Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) School Board will recognize student school board representative Baleigh Peterson at its Jan. 11 meeting in the Gibbon Elementary gym.

GFW School Board Votes On Resolution To Discharge Teacher

The GFW School Board voted on a resolution to discharge a teacher during a closed session Monday night, but school officials aren’t naming the educator.

How an incident at East High School changed the way a district communicates

Jeff Horton discusses the changes made to Duluth Public Schools’ flow of communication.

New Superintendent Administrative restructure

GIBBON — New Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Schools Superintendent Jeff Horton of Duluth hit the ground running Wednesday, revealing his administrative staffing plans at a special board meeting in the Gibbon Primary School gym.

Duluth Public Schools Stay Prepared for Potential Coronavirus Outbreak

Discover how Jeff Horton and his colleagues prepared for a Coronavirus outbreak.

Pathways to Teaching: Growing our own

Jeff Horton represents Duluth Public Schools in the Minnesota Association of School Administrators’ “Pathways to Teaching: Growing our own” breakout session.

Denfeld sees significant increase in graduation rates, East shows slight decrease

Jeff Horton discusses the shifting graduation rates across Duluth Public School system.

Duluth School Board Approves Contract for ALICE Training

Jeff Horton provides insight into the Duluth Public Schools’ implementation of ALICE Training.


GFW Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Horton was recognized at the Minnesota Association of School Administrators Spring Conference as a MASA Regional Administrator of Excellence. This is the first time a sitting superintendent of GFW has received this award from the association.