A man of principle

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Albert Lea High School’s new principal is Jim Wagner. He hails from Monticello High School where he was assistant principal. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea High School has a new principal who plans to hit the ground running with some new policies today, which is the first day of school for students in the Albert Lea School District.

Jim Wagner, 40, moved to Albert Lea with his family last week, and has been preparing for his new job as principal at ALHS for the last three weeks. He said he’s met lots of staff and is excited to start working with students.

“Overall all the changes are positive,” Wagner said. “We want to create a positive learning environment.”

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Wagner said that he would like to prepare students for their adult life of college or employment where they’ll have to be professional. Students will learn about the updates to school policy during their advisory period. Wagner said he also plans to meet with seniors to explain his expectations.

The changes come as Wagner said he wants all students to be able to come to the school ready to learn, and feel safe and comfortable. He doesn’t want clothing or accessories to be a distraction to anyone, which is why changes were made to the dress code.

“I want them to take pride in how they look,” Wagner said.

Updates to the dress code include no underwear showing, no excessive showing of skin or cleavage and no pajamas, among other changes. The full policy can be found on the school’s website.

Another big change Wagner is making is that the high school will no longer allow students to use cell phones between classes during the passing time. Wagner said tardiness between classes has been a problem, and he thinks limiting cell phone use to lunch break and before and after school will remedy the tardies. He understands parents would have concerns about getting in touch with their children, but he said permission will be given in special circumstances like family emergencies.

“It teaches kids responsibility,” Wagner said.

While he does have some changes in mind, Wagner said there are a lot of things teachers and staff are doing right.

“Albert Lea High School has a great staff,” Wagner said. “When you expect great things, great things will happen.”

Other goals Wagner has are to support athletics, the arts and extracurricular activities. He would like 60 to 70 percent of students involved in something outside of the classroom and said they give students a sense of pride in the school and the community.

“It builds character,” Wagner said.

Wagner said he’s also concerned about bullying and that he won’t tolerate it in the school.

“This is not a place for bullying to occur,” Wagner said. “I want this to be a positive place for kids, and I just want a safe environment.”

Previously Wagner was the assistant principal at Monticello High School for three years. Before that he was a high school principal in Aitkin for two years. That school was grades seventh through 12th, so he does have some experience with younger high schoolers. Before getting into administration he worked as a science teacher for 11 years at St. Cloud’s Apollo High School.

He attended St. John’s University as a biology major with a minor in secondary education. After teaching for 11 years he said he wanted to go into administration to have a bigger impact on schools. Superintendent Mike Funk said Wagner went through an extensive interviewing process and was the clear leader out of all the candidates.

“We’re excited to have Jim,” Funk said.

Wagner said he’s looking forward to the school year and said a big goal is to make sure that the school has the best graduation rate possible.

“Albert Lea has a lot to offer,” Wagner said. “We want to let people know Albert Lea is a great place.”


Jim Wagner

Age: 40

Address: Albert Lea

Livelihood: Principal at Albert Lea High School

Family: wife, Beth, and their four children, Emi, 10, Grace, 8, Ava, 7, Sam, 4

Interesting fact: Wagner is a licensed pilot and flew into Albert Lea Airport for his interview with Albert Lea Area Schools.