Outlook optimistic as administrators welcome change

Community Editor

When Linda Madsen retired from her position as district superintendent and Forest Lake Area High School Principal Steve Massey was hired to replace her, the administrative shift that followed saw several district employees changing positions. Those involved in the shift are optimistic about moving forward into the 2017-18 school year.

Jim Caldwell made a move from Linwood Elementary principal to Forest Lake Area High School principal. He served at Linwood for three and a half years.

“I am going to miss the Linwood community as a whole,” Caldwell said. “That area is filled with phenomenal people, and I have made relationships there that will last a lifetime.”

Caldwell also said that he will miss one specific aspect of his lunchtime at Linwood.

“If you are ever having a bad day, you should go have lunch with the kindergarten and first-grade students,” he said. “I guarantee you will walk away smiling.”

One other aspect of his job at Linwood that Caldwell cherished was his opportunity to advance the school forest.

“That forest is really a big part of what connects the school to the community,” he said. “There are so many things that we have been able to do in regards to the forest and educating our kids in unique ways, and I will miss that part of the job.”

Caldwell said that he was initially not looking to leave Linwood, but when the Massey move was announced and Madsen began meeting with district administrators to gauge interest regarding a shift, the idea of working at the high school as a principal was brought back into his mind.

“I am most looking forward to an opportunity to build community and also send kids off into a career path knowing that we have provided them with a phenomenal experience,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell is impressed with the job that his predecessor Massey has done.

“I feel good about the fact that I am not coming into a school that needs to be fixed,” he said. “Great things have been done up to this point, and I am looking forward to building on that success.”

Caldwell’s replacement at Linwood is Joe Mueller. Caldwell said he was ecstatic when he found out. Mueller worked as an English teacher at Forest Lake Area High School beginning in the fall of 2006. In 2013 he took a position as K-12 curriculum coordinator. In 2015, he took on the job of assistant principal at Century Junior High School.

“Initially, I thought I would be an English teacher forever,” Mueller said. “It wasn’t until Dr. Massey invited me to join the building leadership team at the high school that I started getting a taste for administrative work.”

During his time as a curriculum coordinator, it seemed like “a no-brainer” to go after his principal’s license. While he was at it, he also earned his superintendent’s license as well.

“I don’t have a lot of professional experience with the pre-K to grade-six age group,” Mueller said. “I am, however, embracing this change as I am curious to see where the kids that I used to work with at the junior high and high school had come from.”

Mueller believes his upper level experience could be a boon to his job at Linwood.

“I know what is expected of a seventh-grader, and that knowledge will help me in my working with these younger students who are working toward that level,” he said.

Mueller said he is a learner by nature and that he is excited to see younger kids move through the early years of their education.

J.P. Jacobson, who works as principal at Century Junior High, will assume principal duties at both Century and Southwest Junior High for the 2017-18 school year. The Century building, most likely to be renamed, will be expanded to house all grade seven and eight students beginning in 2018. Jacobson will be the principal of that building.

“Working in both buildings this next school year will give me a good opportunity to get to know all the staff really well,” Jacobson said. “I look forward to building and strengthening relationships with both staff and students.”

Jacobson said that Forest Lake is a great community filled with good and gifted kids and that he is welcoming this new opportunity. He is most looking forward to what the new 7-8 building will become.

“We already have several staff members meeting about how our new building will look, sound and feel,” he said. “We are looking to build a new school culture from the ground up by not only taking cues from what is happening in schools across the country, but also by determining what is most important to the Forest Lake community.”

Jacobsen said that he is very aware of the fact that the community has trusted the district with a lot of resources.

“We have a responsibility to the community members and the kids to do this transition right,” he said. “I want to do this so well that other districts will call us for advice when they are in similar positions.”

Bringing together all the seventh- and eighth-grade students into one building could open up greater opportunities for that age group. Jacobson is excited at the prospect.

“Now that our resources are pooled, we will have a chance to look at unique courses that we have not been able to offer in the past,” he said.

Jacobson has gained an assistant principal in former Lino Lakes Principal Ron Burris.

“Ron is a kids-first type of person,” Jacobson said. “He is a kid magnet with a very calm demeanor, and he is excellent at supporting kids. I look very much forward to working with him.”

Former Southwest Junior High School Principal Scott Geary has replaced Burris at Lino Lakes. Currently, his office is in a trailer on the property while construction work continues. He is expected to be in his actual office by February. The school will open on time in August.

“I am leaving behind a great staff at Southwest, and I am proud of the fact that we all worked so hard to help kids succeed,” he said. “However, I know that I am coming into another great staff here at Lino Lakes, and I look forward to more great work serving students.”

Geary had interviewed at Lino earlier in his career, and when Madsen met with him about his career goals, he told her that if he was not needed at the junior high, he would prefer to be placed at Lino Lakes.

“Southwest was a Spanish immersion school, and Lino has that as well, so I thought this was a good fit,” Geary said. “Also, this is a STEM school, and I worked in the science department back when I taught. Coming to Lino was just the right thing for me.”

Geary is excited for the construction project to be complete as he believes it will transform the building into a more welcoming space for the students and the community members.

“The biggest change we will see here is the front entrance,” he said. “The entryway will be all glass, and it will provide for a very open, airy and inviting introduction into our building.”