Albert Lea High’s principal to retire

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Leader. Decision-maker. Counselor. Teacher. Mentor. Trainer. Discipline-giver. Manager.

Those are just some of the titles that make up the job of principal, and Albert Lea High School Principal Al Root says he’s going to miss it. He said it just feels like the right time and so he is retiring at the end of August after 23 years as the principal at ALHS.

Root, 59, worked 32 years as an administrator — 26 with Albert Lea as both an assistant principal and principal. Before that it was three years at two different schools as an administrator. And before that, he was teaching.

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“I taught in Mexico for four years,” Root said.

He taught at the Escuela Americana in Pachuca, Mexico. Then he came back to Minnesota and got his master’s and specialist degree in administration. And now after all these years he’s finally ready to pass the responsibility onto someone else.

“There’s been many memorable experiences, both good and bad,” Root said. “I won’t miss the stress; I will miss the kids and the outstanding teachers I’ve worked with.”

Over the years Root has seen many changes at Albert Lea High School, including a new building in 2000. He said he learned a lot about the process of building a new school. One of his proudest achievements is being involved in offering college classes in the schools.

“A number of students were able to complete a year’s worth of college while still in high school,” Root said.

Other changes include going from a high school with only tenth-, 11th- and 12th-grades to one that also includes ninth- and then eighth-grades. Class sizes have also steadily dropped.

“We went from the high 300s to 185 this year,” Root said.

A big challenge in his career was keeping parents supportive in students’ lives, both academic and social. Part of that was the rise of single parents and households where both parents work. Another big challenge was financial.

“The way education is financed means there’s not equity among districts,” Root said.

Root said he wished schools would all have equal funding from the state, instead of having schools that must hold referendums to offer the same level of education. But through all the changes and challenges, Root said he had fun as well. He’s enjoyed seeing teachers and other leaders learn more and some even become administrators, too.

“This position has allowed me an excellent opportunity to serve the community,” Root said.

And it’s a community that he loves. For now, he and his wife, Griselda, who works at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, plan to stay in the community.

“Albert Lea is one of the greatest places to raise a family,” Root said. “I’m looking forward to a new phase in my life.”

He plans to spend time with his granddaughter and said he cherishes time spent with his family. He’s also an avid runner, reader and sports fan. But he’s not done learning yet, and he hopes to continue his own education or consider another career.

The search is on to find a new principal for Albert Lea High School, and Superintendent Mike Funk said he hopes to have someone in place by mid-July so he or she can train with Root. Funk said Root will be hard to replace since he’s been with the district so long.

“He’s an institution,” Funk said. “He’s done some great initiatives.”

Root’s retirement was official at Monday’s school board meeting, and school board chairwoman Linda Laurie said she wanted to recognize Root for all his work through the years.

“I would like to thank him for his dedication to our school district,” Laurie said.