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School hires superintendent, principal: New leaders in Waubun

The Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District is seeing a big change in leadership this summer.

Brandon Lunak has officially taken over as the school's superintendent, while Frazee native Travis Nagel is the district's new elementary school principal.

Previously, the two positions were combined into one, which Mitch Anderson held.

Before leaving, Anderson recommended to the school board that the position be split up in order to better focus on school improvement initiatives.

The board agreed, and Lunak and Nagel were hired with a July 1 starting date.

Brandon Lunak

Lunak, who left a six-year superintendent-principal position in Emerado, North Dakota, (about 15 miles west of Grand Forks) says one initial challenge he faces is the difference in district size.

Waubun-Ogema-White Earth is roughly five times larger than Emerado in terms of student population.

"But even though there are more people and more programs, there are also more people to help -- a bigger support staff," said Lunak, "So my big goal is to learn the climate, learn the culture and work with my administrative team and support staff to continue to move the district forward with its current initiatives."

District officials say when they were screening candidates for these positions, they wanted educators who were ready to sign on to the districts current plan to raise substandard test scores -- an issue they've been dealing with since March of 2010.

"And this is something I have dealt with as well," said Lunak, "Where I came from we were also going through the same school improvement initiative process, so I can empathize with what's going on, and so I think the biggest thing I can do here is support what the SIG grant is bringing to us."

The School Improvement Grant, or SIG, is a $1.4 million federal grant that goes to schools labeled "turn-around schools" due to low test scores.

"So, my No. 1 priority is to take on what's already being done," said Lunak.

A UND graduate, Lunak was a physical education and health teacher in Climax, Minn., for eight years before his stint in Emerado.

He brings with him a wife and two children.

Travis Nagel

Nagel, who most recently taught sixth grade in Lake Park-Audubon, was also the head coach for United Clay-Becker Wrestling, (Which consists of LP-A and Hawley).

With his new job as principal of the K-4 elementary school in Ogema, Nagel says he is hanging up his coaching hat for now.

"The demands of being the principal is a lot, but maybe if I can help out down the road or stay involved with wrestling somehow, I'd like that, but I do need to step out of coaching for a while."

Accepting this position means Nagel will go from teaching 20-some children in a classroom to managing an entire building.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge, though," Nagel said, "My role now will be to work both students and instructors, so helping to guide them in their teaching strategies -- so that they can then help their students meet their goals -- is something that's exciting for me."

Nagel says although he's just getting to know some of the people within the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District, he already has good impressions.

"They seem like a group of people that are always looking to improving themselves, and I'm really looking forward to being a part of that."

For now, Nagel, his wife and three children will continue living in Frazee.