Principal Laager leaves Stillwater Area High School

Principal Ryan Laager’s office is nice. There is a large white board with notes scribbled into every corner, there’s a table that has a Stillwater pony inscribed on it with a few chairs for meetings, and a fairly clean desk with a MacBook Pro and three or four pages, all filled corner-to-corner with detailed notes. A long table in the back has some pictures of Laager with his family, papers, and a small radio set, playing music softly in the background. All Laager’s things, though, will be gone from the principal’s office next year, along with Laager himself.

Laager became the Principal of Stillwater Area High School 5 years ago, and in these years he has done wonders for the quality of the school, its curriculum, and its communication process. Throughout this time, he has reverently kept weekly communication updates posted on the school website, he has equipped students and classrooms with new forms of technology, and he has redesigned large portions of the school curriculum. He has improved the school’s curriculum so much, that next year he is moving to the Central Services building to start redesigning the curriculum for the entire school district. A bittersweet moment for SAHS.

One of the major goals of Laager is to make the curriculum have a more balanced and flowable structure.

“Traditionally we looked at curriculum, supposedly, about every six years, so you’d do a science curriculum adoption, and then six years later you’d revisit the science curriculum adoption. There’s some areas though, where it had been 20 plus years since they had last done a curriculum adoption. They hadn’t looked at updating the curriculum or using the most current knowledge, not formally. Teachers are doing it individually all the time, but just in bits and pieces,” said Laager. “What we’re looking at creating is what we’re going to call a 21 century curriculum model, where there’s actually a fluid process where every year, curriculums will be able to be reviewed.”

Laager sees that now, more than ever, schools need a curriculum that is changing to fit the modern-day workforce.

“The top five jobs that will be available for students who enter kindergarten now don’t exist. We now, for the first time in history, have a system that needs to prepare kids for a workforce that we don’t even know is going to be here. The kids who start kindergarten this fall will graduate in the third decade of the 21 century, and yet we’re still trying to define what 21 century school systems look like,” said Laager.

Laager is also looking forward to utilizing relations with other school districts to help ours in his new position.

“Our big STEM course came out of Mahtomedi building their fabrication lab and getting it certified by MIT. We have LEAP at the junior high now, that really came out of a visit to some other schools we took two years ago, Chaska, Chanhassen, they’re doing some really neat stuff in acceleration. Sometimes we get stuck looking only within the walls of the district, just at how things are going in Stillwater,” said Laager.

Laager is extremely excited to tackle his new position, he thinks he can make a lot of powerful changes, since he has such a powerful base to work from.

“I think we have incredible students, or what I call inputs, into this system. I mean, we have really good kids, and they do a really good job. But the potential of bringing in and looking at the most modern things, really staying at the cutting edge of what people are out there doing, bringing that in, insuring that we have consistency and equity that’s rigorous at all levels. We’ll close the gaps,” said Laager.

Despite his excitement, Laager will miss his year-long experience as school principal.

“You know, when you’ve been somewhere for five years you build a lot of relationships with people, and there’s a lot of really good staff members here, and I will miss that interaction,” said Laager.

Laager has fared well according to current staff as well, but they can also see the value he will have in his new position.

Science teacher Jeff Ranta said, “He’s very approachable, very, very helpful. He’s very data-driven. Sometimes that’s helpful, and sometimes it’s not helpful. So really, implementing a broader program, that might be his niche. He can help us analyze our programs as a whole.”

Although it may be hard to see Laager leave as the school’s principal, he will be moving up to help the district in an even broader sense.