Laager gets new assignment

SAHS principal to advance curriculum part of strategic plan

Stillwater Area High School principal Dr. Ryan Laager will serve Independent School Dsitrict 834 in a new capacity next year, helping with the district’s new teaching and learning model in a principal-on-special-assignment position to advance the curriculum part of the district’s new strategic plan.

“We’re changing the organizational model of the teaching and learning department. The most important thing that impacts our kids is teaching and learning and we’re intentionally changing it,” said Superintendent Corey Lunn. “When I got here, teaching and learning was at the same level of importance as the financial and business portion of the district. With this we’re putting it up higher.”

Lunn added that the organizational changes will not cost the district more money, showing a net savings of $91,070 to the general fund once the re-organization is complete. He said this was accomplished by using multiple funding sources, re-allocating unfilled and current positions and shuffling job duties and responsibilities of various staff.

Lunn said the organizational change includes fewer Central Services staff, more support in the schools and increased opportunities for staff to become involved in curriculum development. Laager will oversee the area of the teaching and learning department that concerns curriculum and instruction.

“Really what I’m doing is putting together a structure to review curriculum every year. Some areas in our school district haven’t been updated in 15 or 20 years, mainly because of lack of resources to adopt a new curriculum,” Laager said. “The new model is designed to advance the curriculum and includes all teachers which is different than most places. In some cases a couple of teachers choose and write the curriculum for everybody. This plan that I’ll work on will be building in pieces that will allow all teachers to offer feedback.”

If it sounds like a daunting task, Laager agrees.

“Yeah, it will be. Right now it’s all about getting the people in place and it’s hard right now, especially since I’m working two jobs at once,” he said.
Although Laager will remain involved at SAHS, the district is looking for an interim principal for next school year.

“We’re planning on working with the high school staff to determine the attributes of a leader that they’d like to have. And looking for interview teams of parents, teachers and staff. The position has been posted as a one-year interim position and is available to external and internal people and Ryan will help the new person out, too” Lunn said.

“(Getting a new position) is always a mixed emotion. I enjoy the high school and the staff and when you get used to working with really great teachers and staff, it’s hard to leave. But as you get into different positions, every time you get farther away from the interaction with the kids, which is what a lot of us go into education for,” Laager said. “I know I’m going to be doing important work that needs to be done because as educators we need to have the best quality curriculum and teacher efficacy that we possibly can. Both have to be present to best serve our students and I think we have the potential to improve learning. Curricula is a really powerful tool.”

Laager said it’s especially important to have a yearly curriculum review so students can be as prepared as possible to attend college and enter the 21st century working world. Currently curriculum is looked at less frequently.

“I have a book on my desk right now that says the kindergartners now will graduate in the third decade of the 21st century and we’re still working on teaching them the skills they’ll need to succeed,” Laager said. “We used to be able to predict the top five careers when they leave high school and college but now we can’t predict those because of the rapid information, technology and digital changes that are happening right now. If we create a more rapid response in curriculum we may be able to send kids out with greatly enhanced skills for the needs in the 21st century. And a review of curriculum every year can really help us with that.”