Detroit Lakes High School will have a new principal next fall — but his face is a familiar one to Laker football fans. Per a recent post on the Detroit Lakes Public Schools Facebook page, current DLHS Academy coordinator and head Laker football coach Joshua Omang has been chosen to succeed outgoing Principal Darren Wolf.
"Mr. Omang went through a rigorous interview process that narrowed our field from 24 applicants to four finalists last week," read the Monday, March 8, post. With his new position, Omang will no longer be coaching football.
A Callaway native, Omang spent his formative years in the Detroit Lakes Public Schools system, graduating in 1999. When he enrolled at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., as a freshman, he had originally planned to go into the medical field, on the premed track.
"I was going to major in biology, and then I decided that’s not what I wanted to do," he said, adding that he switched his major to education toward the end of his sophomore year at Gustavus.
Omang said his teachers and coaches in Detroit Lakes played a big role in his decision to switch career paths.
"I wanted to give back in the same way (as a teacher)," he explained. "I wanted to have the same impact (on future students) that the teachers and coaches here at Detroit Lakes did for me."
After graduating from Gustavus with a bachelor's degree in education, and subsequently earning his master's degree from St. Mary's University, Omang first taught in the Chaska school district.
During his four-year tenure of teaching health and physical education at Chaska Middle School, Omang was encouraged to look into school administration as a career path, and obtained his education specialist credentials from the University of St. Thomas. He would spend an additional five years as administrative dean at Chaska, supervising about 1,100 kids, before he accepted another teaching position at Chanhassen High School.
"I taught at Chanhassen for four years, and spent a year as administrative dean there as well," Omang said.
It was toward the end of his tenure at Chanhassen that Josh and his wife, Beth — who like him, had grown up in a small town — decided that they wanted to raise their family in outstate Minnesota rather than the Twin Cities.
Seeing a job opening for a coordinator to help bring the vision of a 9th Grade Academy at Detroit Lakes High School to life, Omang applied, and was accepted. He was also hired as head coach of the Laker football program after Flint Motschenbacher retired.
When his wife Beth found a job at BTD Manufacturing, it seemed as though a move back to the lakes area was in order. Just like their dad, the Omangs' two children would grow up as Lakers. Daughter Julia is in 7th grade at Detroit Lakes Middle School, while son Isaac is in 4th grade at Roosevelt Elementary.
Six years into his dual role with the district, Omang decided he wanted to stretch his wings a bit further. He applied for the high school principal job after Darren Wolf announced that he would leave at the end of the current school year.
This past Monday, March 8, his hiring became official, and he announced that he would be leaving his coaching position as well as his academy coordinator role in June. His tenure as principal is slated to begin July 1.
"I'm excited," he said, noting that he has a few goals for his new job already. "It is a chance for me to have an impact on way more people than just the 100 boys I did in football...
"I won't be on the sidelines anymore, but I will certainly still be coaching — just in a different way."
Omang noted that he would like Detroit Lakes to serve as a model for other outstate Minnesota school districts looking to establish an academy-style educational model.
"We’ve done a lot of work on it, visiting some of these other schools, and especially ones that are doing the academy model," he said. "One of my goals is that people will come to our school to see how we’ve done it — to be a leader in implementing that model, especially in a smaller, outstate high school. That’s pretty rare."
His other early goal, Omang says, is to work to create a school culture "that people are excited to be a part of, so they want to come here to school every day, both to learn and to work."
When asked why he had obtained a superintendent's license from Minnesota State University Moorhead, Omang said that while being a school superintendent might be in his future, it was also about furthering his education.
"I'm a lifelong learner," he said, adding, "you've always got to have a dream, and work towards it. I wanted to have options as I get older, and to just keep learning."