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Nagel named principal by Frazee board

The Frazee-Vergas School District has hired a new activities director and a new elementary principal.

The board voted to hire Travis Nagel as elementary principal over Dean of Students Troy Haugen, who has been with the district 15 years, six of those as the elementary dean of students.

Nagel is the elementary principal at Waubun-Ogema-White Earth.

The board also approved hiring Nick Courneya for the activities director-student support specialist position. Dave Trautmann is retiring from the position, and Courneya is a teacher and coach in the Detroit Lakes district.

Other finalists for the activities director position included David Anderson, teacher and coach from Sauk Rapids-Rice district, and Clay Nagel, coach and teacher at Concordia College.

Nick Courneya

Travis Nagel and Courneya are both Frazee-Vergas graduates. Both will start with the Frazee district July 1. Their contracts will be approved at next month’s board meeting.

“I don’t know him but have heard nothing but good things about him,” board chair Matt Bauer said of the Courneya recommendation Monday evening at a special board meeting.

On the defense

Coming prepared with a written speech, Bauer said, “There are hard decisions we have to make and a lot revolves around hiring and firing.”

He added that contrary to what’s been said and heard around the district, no one has a larger say or vote on who is hired. He said it’s hard to turn down an internal candidate but that he thinks Nagel will be great for the job. He added that he trusts the committee’s recommendation and hopes the district will welcome Nagel.

Board member Rich Ziegler also said that he appreciates the calls and e-mails he received, but he also knows the board gets “ridiculed” for its decisions.

“I’m convinced Mr. Nagel will be fine. He’s a wonderful candidate,” he said.

Principal discussions

Earlier that afternoon, members of a committee discussed which principal candidate to recommend to the board.

 Those on the committee included board members Tammie Nunn, Jim Nelson and Don Trieglaff, Principal Rob Nudell, Superintendent Chuck Cheney and incoming superintendent Terry Karger.

The purpose of the interviews in the first place, Cheney said, was because a year ago the district approved going to a principal position in the elementary and one in the high school as opposed to a K-12 principal (Nudell) and elementary dean of students (Haugen).

The state is requiring an overhaul of teacher evaluations, and a licensed principal would need to be involved in that, not a dean. Cheney said the board could have made the changes last year but decided to wait a year, in part, to allow Haugen to get the licensure he needed to qualify for the principal position.

“Some people are criticizing the board, but the opportunity is there and Troy is being strongly considered,” he said.

Three men were interviewed for the elementary principal position — Haugen, Nagel and Matt Naugle, who is an assistant principal in Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

Cheney said it was a difficult thing, “but out of respect to Troy (Cheney talked to him) and brought him up to date” on the fact that the other candidates were being favored over him.

After the interviews though, Naugle withdrew his name from the running, saying he had other opportunities in the district he was already working in.

“He alerted me to the fact that he applied for another position at DGF,” Cheney said.

“Obviously, Troy continues to be very interested in this position,” he added.

Monday afternoon, Cheney also acknowledged the dozen or so people in the room who were there in support of Haugen, and said that he had gotten multiple e-mails and phone calls in support of Haugen.

“If the ship is moving in the right direction, why jump the ship,” Trieglaff said in support of hiring Haugen for the position. He added that he wasn’t ready to give the position to someone younger, especially when Haugen has proven himself with high test scores from the elementary students.

Some of the points Cheney said the district were looking for when it came to a principal were strong leadership at the elementary and the ability to implement changes, strong teaching background, strong and respectful ability to discipline, being visible and out in the community, assertiveness and intervention systems in place.

Nelson said he supported Nagel because of the elementary teaching experience he has, and that if he has less experience in leadership, Nagel would have Nudell and Karger to look to for guidance.

Travis Nagel

“We need to do what’s best for the kids. I believe Travis is best for our system and our kids,” Nelson said.

Karger said that both Haugen and Nagel bring strengths to the table and everyone has room to grow, but he liked that Nagel had more experience in discipline.

“Travis has more experience as far as grade levels,” Nunn said, adding that Nagel has the teaching experience in the elementary that Haugen doesn’t have.

She also acknowledged the phone calls and e-mails she had received from staff and the public but said she would have asked they would have sent them to her before the interviews instead of after. She said that if anyone had sat through all three interviews, they might see things differently, too.

“This was not a very easy decision. It weighed on me last week,” she said.

Cheney said that Haugen expressed great pride in the implementation of the 5-6 Hive at the elementary school, moving the kindergarten to all-day-every-day and the high test scores.               

He also pointed out that during the interview, Nagel talked about the possible difficulties with coming to a home district where he graduated and being the supervisor of teachers that taught him 15-20 years ago.

“He’s gotta be ready for that,” Cheney said.

He also has to be ready for the possibility that he will have to discipline the children of his former classmates, Cheney added.

One asset Nagel does bring to Frazee, he said, is that in Waubun, Nagel has been exposed to school improvement programs because of the deficiencies the district has gone through the last few years.

Trieglaff, who still supported Haugen, said that he would be a team player so the district can move forward as a whole.

“In the spirit of moving ahead, I think Travis is going to be a good principal,” he said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.