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East Ridge names new principal

Aaron Harper is going to need a new set of keys, but he will have to wait until East Ridge High School is built before he gets them.

Harper's been chosen as the first principal of the new high school being built in Woodbury.

This week, he is turning over his key to the principal's office at Oltman Junior High School in St. Paul Park to Becky Schroeder, the new interim principal for the 2007-2008 school year who is relinquishing her job as School District 833 curriculum director.

Harper, who has been at Oltman for two years, faces the daunting but exciting task of opening a new high school, something most school districts do only every 30 years.

After being offered the job, he felt overwhelmed with happiness, but just for a minute. Then he started making a list of what he has to accomplish by the time the school opens in the fall of 2009.

"I remembered a quote that said luck is the result of opportunity and preparation," Harper said last Friday before his first planning meeting with district administrators. "I'm in the right place at the right time. I am so fortunate."

First on his list of things to do as he assumes his new role is knowing the details of what Superintendent Tom Nelson and Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Instruction Randy Zipf expect him to accomplish.

"By the end of August, I'll be in the deep end of the pool, so to speak," he said.

Harper also intends to visit recently built high schools in Chaska and Lakeville.

"I need to read, read, read," about best practices in secondary education and facilities. "I need to keep everything in focus, both the big picture and the details. It's about balancing the need to make decisions and reflect the needs of the community," he said.

He already has some of the experience he will need, having coordinated a $23 million re-design project that included a large athletic complex in the Bloomington School District.

As East Ridge principal, he will have many decisions to make including what desks need to be ordered, colors for the décor and other details in the school.

"I want to limit the number of times the public asks, 'why did Harper do that?'"

He plans to be very active in the process of deciding where school attendance boundaries will be drawn. "It will be a collaborative decision," he said.

"I guess I'll start my job by finding out the details of the groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 2," Harper said, "the day after I start my new job."

Before getting too immersed, he plans to help Schroeder settle in to her new job as a junior high school principal. She will be part of the transition to middle school for grades six, seven and eight at the same time the new school opens.

Harper's background includes teaching science at Irondale and Bloomington Kennedy high schools and he was an administrative assistant and assistant principal at Bloomington Kennedy.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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