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Montevideo American-News - Montevideo, MN
  • Interim middle school principal departing after school year

  • Though we hardly had time to get to know her, Interim Principal Karen Norell will be leaving the Montevideo Middle School at the end of this school year.
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  • Though we hardly had time to get to know her, Interim Principal Karen Norell will be leaving the Montevideo Middle School at the end of this school year.
     
    After Brenda Vatthauer left last year, the district sought an interim principal to fill the role while a thorough search could be made for a long term hire. Norell had retired in 2012 after working 13 years as a principal in YME. She spent the next two years filling in as a paraprofessional, subbing and even working as a corrections officer. Montevideo Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller and Bruce Bergeson, Montevideo’s high school principal, both knew her professionally, and they asked her if she’d be willing to come work as a principal for another year in Montevideo.
     
    “I said yes, and it was a good decision. It’s been a good year,” Norell said.
     
    Norell got to work a week after her interview, and was glad to do it. She likes the other roles she’s been trying out while in retirement, but said, “This is what I am better at.”
     
    With 35 years of total education experience behind her, 28 of those years as a principal, Norell set out to see what she could accomplish in a year. Her goals, she said, were the stated goals of the school:
    - Close the achievement gap
    - Come prepared to teach and to learn
    - Build an environment of mutual respect
     
    “In closing the achievement gap, we have made some significant progress,” Norell said. “But there is more work to do. That gives everyone a reason to keep coming back.”
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    Norell said she also made a point of trying to build a relationship of trust with the staff and students. Most of her experience was with grades six through twelve, so part of building a good relationship meant she had things to learn.
     
    “Having middle school kids was a learning experience,” Norell said. “But I was able to get immediate feedback from students and teachers.”
     
    Norell described herself as a question asker, and was thankful the staff was able to answer her questions. “I was very curious to learn about childhood education and childhood development,” Norell said.
     
    Norell said that when she steps out, and the new principal, Sam Shephard, steps in, he’ll have a good experience. In the last year, Norell said she learned the school staff is a professional, capable group.
     
    “He is coming in to work with some great administrators,” she added. “There is a good, strong base. They’re a collaborative group.”
     
    Norell said it was fun to get back into a principal role for a year, but she’ll be back to retirement on June 18. “Hopefully there will be another job that opens up,” Norell said. “But, you know, retirement is okay too.”
    An open house will be held for Sam Shephard on Tuesday, May 20 from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the commons.

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