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Waubun combines superintendent, principal jobs -- Mitch Anderson started career as teacher

It's been a busy few years for Ogema Elementary Principal Mitch Anderson.

He moved from teaching third and fourth grade in Becker to the principal position at Ogema, from being a teacher to being an administrator, and as of July 1, he'll move into the combined role of elementary principal and district superintendent for Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools.

"As a teacher, teaching third and fourth grade, there were different things happening every day, but basically I knew my time schedule was going to be the same," Anderson.

"As a principal, it's ever-changing, I mean there's constantly things going on and no day is the same. It's enjoyable, too," he said.

He said he expected to be an elementary principal throughout the rest of his career, but after becoming more familiar with the district, he considered applying for the superintendent position.

"When I heard that (Joe Merseth) would be willing to mentor me for a year or two, and kind of ease me into and transition that way, it seemed like a good opportunity," Anderson said.

He said Merseth's experience and good track record will help him gain a more experienced perspective on the job while performing the duties in his first year in the superintendent position.

"I'm not going to guarantee there won't be a few mistakes made that I hopefully won't make the second time," Anderson said.

The change to district administrator will be an interesting challenge for Anderson. As a principal, he said his boundaries are more clearly defined. As a superintendent, he will step into the leadership role for the whole district.

"With the staff we have, they've got what's best for kids in mind and there aren't any real burning issues in the district," he said.

The district has great facilities, Anderson said, and many of the teachers also pursue their master's degrees through a program at Minnesota State University in Moorhead.

"There's good things happening here and I just want to continue in that," Anderson said.

A bit of history

Anderson grew up in Frazee, in a family of educators. He attended St. Cloud State University before graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead with a bachelor's degree in elementary education.

He received his master's degree in education from Hamline University in St. Paul, and his certificate in educational administration and leadership from St. Cloud State University.

Outside the school building, Anderson said he is a family man. His mother still lives in Frazee, where he grew up. His sister and brother-in-law live in Perham.

His wife, Heidi, stays home with their three daughters, ages four, three, and 7 ½ months. When he's not working or spending time with his family, he enjoys hunting and fishing.

He said he started bow hunting a few years ago, which has made hunting a bit more difficult. The family has some land near Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge where they are sure to get a deer during rifle season. With bow hunting, Anderson said he could sit in the stand all day and not be able to get anything.

"If I had to pick one or the other, I'd rather sit in the stand with a bow. It's a challenge and it's something I enjoy doing. Plus it gives you some time to think about things and just unwind a little bit," he said.

Also a sports lover (and former coach) Anderson said, "If I'm not on the outdoors channel, I'm on ESPN probably. Once in a while Hannah Montana and Dora the Explorer have to jump in there for the girls."

He follows area high school athletic events and really enjoyed the success of the Waubun Bombers nine-man football team last fall.

The family lives just outside of Detroit Lakes, a perfect distance to visit his mother in Frazee or his in-laws in Ada, while working in the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District. He said they are leaving their options open to move into the district, if the right situation presents itself.

Career-wise, Anderson said he is most proud of his transition from teacher into the role of administrator.

"I still kind of have the mind of a teacher, so when teachers come to me about some issues, I can still relate to it. I haven't been out of the classroom and out of that teacher's mindset long enough to forget some of the struggles that go on in the classroom and some of the challenges," Anderson said.

"I do miss the just one-on-one interaction with the kids and having "your" group of kids and watching them grow," he admitted.

He said he still gets his kid fix every day, but he also misses extracurricular coaching a bit.

"It's different just sitting in the stands, watching the game, than being a part of it."

Anderson is looking forward to the challenge his new position will bring. He said there are still some things to work out to make sure all his principal duties are covered when he is working on superintendent duties, but he isn't worried.

"We've got a staff that's very capable and they'll be able to pick up some areas where maybe I'm not present enough," Anderson said.

"The last thing I want to do is leave a building high and dry and not have support in place, and I'll make sure that's not happening."