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Roosevelt School leader says goodbye - Jerry Hanson takes principal job in Fargo

JERRY HANSON, principal of Roosevelt Elementary School in Detroit Lakes, won't wear Laker red much longer.

Jerry Hanson remembers his first day as principal of Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes.

"I was so nervous," said Hanson, who came from the principal position in Perham's elementary school.

That was 10 years ago, and now Hanson is once again packing up his office for another move - this time to Fargo.

"I seem to get a little stir crazy after about eight years, so this is pretty good that I made it to 10," laughs Hanson.

Another big reason for the move across the border is because the 55-year old principal is eligible for retirement next year.

This means he can collect retirement in Minnesota, while still actively working in North Dakota, a move Hanson says will go a long way in making him financially ready for a real retirement down the road.

Until then, Hanson will be one of 13 principals in the Fargo district, with Kennedy Elementary being his territory.

The school itself is larger than Roosevelt, but its student population is similar.

Hanson says although he will miss his old Laker school, there are things he looks forward to in Fargo.

"North Dakota has a lot of money in their school system because they've got the oil and the coal and the energy stuff so they don't seem to be fighting the financial things that Minnesota is fighting. That will be very refreshing to not have to look at those cuts every spring," said Hanson, "They've got some nice things in place as far as a consistent curriculum too."

Although Hanson says he's excited to begin a new chapter in his career, he says being so invested in Roosevelt for the last decade is making it difficult to leave.

"I told the kids on the last day of school, and that was so ... tough," Hanson said, "I told them they have a job to do -- they need to welcome the new principal and give him lots of hugs and high-fives," said Hanson.

"And then I said to the staff, 'Keep your family number one and make sure this job doesn't eat you up.'"

About half of those staff members at Roosevelt are people Hanson hired, so he says he's certain he's leaving the school in good hands.

"I've never worked with a group of more dedicated people ... ever," said Hanson.

In fact, Hanson says his proudest accomplishment lies within his staff, who he says is responsible for turning the entire school around.

"When I first got here, Minnesota was just starting to rate schools with a five-star system," Hanson explained, "and we didn't grade out very well -- we barely got three stars. The staff really took that to heart and within two years had turned it around to get us a five-star rating and several other awards since then."

After seeing the school grow from 500 to 700 students and struggling through the growing pains that accompanied that "good problem," Hanson says he regrets not being here for the day the crowding problem at Roosevelt is solved.

"And I know our PTO is also working on getting us a much-needed new playground, so I'd have liked to see that, too," said Hanson.

He will physically get to see those things, though, as Hanson's plan is to stay living in Detroit Lakes for the time being, while commuting to his new job.

"My wife, Sharon, still has another year working at the middle school, so I'll be around," smiled Hanson, "I don't want to be too much of a pest to the new principal, but I'll definitely stop in."

Who that new principal will be is still unknown.

There are already a number of applicants for the job, including some coming from within the district.

"We don't know what we're going to do yet," said Detroit Lakes School Board Chairman David Langworthy, "We could decide to restructure at the administrative level or just do a straight hire, but with things like this comes the opportunity to change things up -- it opens up other doors of possibilities," said Langworthy.

One of those possibilities is having an interim, as Hanson's late departure puts a time-crunch on the school board.

"It's a tough time of year for us, so that creates a challenge for us, too -- it could help dictate what we decide to do," said Langworthy.

Whoever it is, Hanson has some advice for them.

"They should be themselves; come in and watch and learn and listen," said Hanson, "They're not coming into a place that needs fixing; they're not coming into a mess, things are moving along pretty smoothly, and they should just continue to hire good people and then get out of their way."

The board will address the issue at the next board meeting on June 13.