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Frazee grad returns to help run district

One could call it a homecoming of sorts.

Travis Nagel graduated from Frazee-Vergas High School in 1997, and will now be leading the elementary school.

Terry Karger served as principal in the district several years ago and will now be returning to lead the entire district.

Last month, the Frazee-Vergas School District hired the two men as elementary principal and superintendent, respectively. And though both say they never intended to leave their current jobs, they’re both happy to be returning to Frazee.

Nagel: Finally, no more commuting

When starting his professional career, Nagel got his first teaching job at West Central Area Schools near Elbow Lake, between Fergus Falls and Alexandria. During that time, he lived in Perham and commuted the 60 miles one way.

After a year he got a job teaching in Lake Park-Audubon for six years. The commute lessened substantially.

Moving from Perham, he and his wife and children returned to his hometown of Frazee.

“I really liked the community and wanted to raise our kids there,” he said.

During his tenure at Lake Park-Audubon, he earned his master’s degree from Southwest Minnesota State University and his administration licensure from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

He then applied for the Ogema principal job and has been there for a year — extending his commute once again.

“I love it here and didn’t foresee (leaving). I wasn’t looking for anything,” he said.

But then the Frazee position opened up and it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.

During his interview with the hiring committee in Frazee, it was brought up that it could be awkward for Nagel to now be supervising the teachers that once taught him. Not so, though, he said.

For one, nearly all of the teachers he had 20 years ago in elementary school are now retired. Secondly, he said, once people get to know him in a professional setting, he doesn’t see any problems arising.

“Everyone is there for the same goal,” he said of the students and giving them the best education possible.

“I really enjoy the position itself,” Nagel said of being a principal. “There’s a variety of duties, and it’s an exciting job to have.”

With his move to the Frazee district, Nagel said he’s excited to work with the teachers and their ideas for student education.

“I’m not trying to come in and fix a lot of things,” he said.

Instead, he wants to add to what is already a successful district.

And now that he’s finally working in the community where he lives, he can spend more time in Frazee, promoting that as well.

“I want to showcase what the community has to offer,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I love the community and becoming more a part of that.”

Karger: Multiple reasons to come back

Karger said there are multiple reasons why he decided to apply for the superintendent position with the Frazee-Vergas district.

“Community. Love of the area. Family,” he listed.

Serving as principal in Frazee-Vergas from 2000 to 2008, Karger moved on to Dilworth-Glyndon Felton in 2008 to serve as high school principal. His wife though, continued her job in the Frazee district as an early interventionist at the elementary school.

“My wife has continued to teach there through our move up here to D-G-F, so now getting back into the area will lessen her commute obviously, but getting back in the community and to lakes country has always been something we wanted to do.

“I dragged her there many years ago and she hasn’t left,” he said with a laugh.

Karger said the Frazee district is headed in a positive direction, and he plans to continue that.

“I think they have a lot of good things going. The community support is very strong again and that’s very appealing.

“I know that we have quality staff and to establish some goals, and to continue the goals that have been set, is going to be exciting, and I look forward to the challenge.”

Since Karger was hired first, he was able to sit in on the interviews and recommendations for the elementary principal and activities director positions that Nagel and Nick Courneya are filling, respectively.

For more on Courneya’s return to the Frazee district (he’s a 1999 graduate of the district) see today’s sports section.

After working with staff in the district for several years, some came to Karger’s interview with the school board to shake hands and welcome him back. Since being hired, he’s had a great response from his former co-workers, he said.          

“It has been very well appreciated. It is overwhelming.”

And though he’s happy to be returning to the district, he wasn’t necessarily looking, either. When interim superintendent Chuck Cheney agreed to come to the district for one year, Karger said he considered applying for the Frazee position.

Then the district held off hiring for another year as Chaney agreed to stay on one more year and get the referendum passed and bring more stability to the district. A move that benefited everyone, Karger said.

“Actually, putting it off a year just helped everybody in the process, including myself. I think what it did for the district was give Mr. Cheney another year for his leadership to come through, and he is a fine leader, obviously. He’s done some great things.”

He said he hopes to continue the positive, smooth progress the district has made the last couple years.

“The timing was good and the location is awesome, and I think the community getting back and supporting the school district again is very appealing.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.