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New Red Rock principal speaks of hopes

The first day of school is Andrew Caflisch's favorite day of the year.

This September, he'll be spending it at Red Rock Elementary School, where he is taking over this week as its new principal.

Caflisch comes from Grey Cloud Elementary in Cottage Grove, where he has spent the last five years as principal there.

He says this week is likely to be one of mixed emotions -- sadness at having to say goodbye to former colleagues (the students' farewell came in June) and excitement at starting on a new challenge.

"It was definitely a difficult decision to move on after five years and developing relationships," said the father-of-two who lives in Hastings.

"It seemed to be a good opportunity and the timing seemed to be OK in terms of a different challenge and a new opportunity."

Caflisch previously worked as assistant principal at Middleton Elementary in Woodbury and Stillwater Junior High School.

He praises Red Rock's founding principal, Gail Githens, for the work she has done at the school in the seven years since it opened, and acknowledges she left "big shoes to fill."

Of what students, teachers and parents can expect in the coming months, Caflisch says the key will be balance.

"I think they can clearly expect a balance," he explained. "I think obviously there's an accountability piece to what we do in schools, related to student achievement, and Red Rock historically has done very well with test scores and parents can expect there's that accountability and achievement...

"When I said balance, I think that an elementary school, in addition to being a time for that development, growth and achievement, is also a time for students to develop relationships.

"My philosophy as a principal is to go in and provide a real balanced education, whether it's through enrichment and arts or academic programs."

It's a time of change for the Caflisch family, as Caflisch's two children, Trevor and Natalie, celebrate their seventh and fourth birthdays respectively during the first week of July, and look ahead to entering first grade and pre-school this fall.

In the meantime, Caflisch says the whole family will be taking advantage of the slower pace of life over the summer vacation to head north to a cabin for the Fourth of July holiday, and spending time together on the family boat which is kept on the St. Croix River.

And, before Caflisch knows it, Sept. 2 will roll around.

"There's no question in my mind that my favorite day of the year is the first day of the school year," he smiled.

"When the kids walk through the door on that first day, it's like, 'Yes, here we go. This is all good stuff.'"