Albert Lea superintendent outlines goals for first 100 days

Published 4:56 am Thursday, July 7, 2022

Ron Wagner, the new superintendent of Albert Lea Area Schools, started his job last week, but he already has plans for the first 100 days.

Ron Wagner

“I’m just humbly excited to start … to work in collaboration with students, staff and community to accelerate the work and the achievement here in Albert Lea,” he said.  

Wagner has experience in both small and large districts, and during the interview process Wagner emphasized the need that everything done should be in support of opportunities for students. 

“Policy development should be centered on what’s best, what meets the needs of students,” he said in a recent interview. He said perspective was also necessary and that any policy developed should have an equity focus.

“It’s ensuring that each student has the ability to be who they need to be,” he said. 

As a teacher in rural Indiana, Wagner said policies were centered on a more micro-level student level, whereas in Minneapolis policies were more macro-level.

“We still had to stay centered on our focus on our students,” he said.

As the new superintendent, he said his first goal was listening and learning to bridge and connect. He also wants to be a visible presence in the community, whether that is at one of the district’s schools, listening to students or at Caribou hearing from staff and the community.

“It’s important for them to be able to see me out and connecting with them and being part of my values, which are family and community,” he said. “It’s really doing a lot of listening and learning, and continuing to support the excellence of Albert Lea and accelerating that excellence.”

His most important priority, at least initially, was learning about the community.

“I’ve walked out in the community out downtown, I’ve tried to attend community events, just asking, “What is the experience that your child, what’s the experience you’ve had as a parent’” he said. “Doing a lot of background information and learning.”

His goal is to be accepted into the community and to continue a partnership and learning, as he felt it would take everyone’s help to support the district’s students.

So far, what he has heard from parents and others are their concerns on the impact of lost learning, academic achievement and the social and emotional well-being/mental health concerns that came about with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really supporting through a wraparound and giving the students an adult to connect with, and knowing and ensuring that we focus on culture and climate as students and staff come back after several years of the pandemic,” he said. “It will be a lot about creating those conditions, and there’s still some anxiety from parents with COVID, as COVID still exists in our community.”

To do this, he wants to ensure the community and students feel comfortable and heard. Wagner is meeting with building leaders and principals and people in the district’s office, to see how they can partner with the community. His biggest goal for the first 100 days as superintendent: listening, learning, leading and bridging/connecting.

To that effect, he is considering the creation of a student cabinet that would inform him about their experiences.

“I really value and I want to elevate student voice,” he said.

He also wants to be intentional, which for him meant being in lunchrooms and classrooms.