SPOONER -- The Spooner Area School District SASD) will have a new Spooner Middle School (SMS) Principal next year after current Principal, Brad Larrabee, announced his resignation.
"Our family recently was offered and accepted a position as the elementary school principal for the Maple Northwestern School District," Principal Larrabee said. "I will finish out this school year at SMS and will transition to my new role July 1st of 2018.
"During my four years as principal at SMS I have been very proud to work and learn alongside each and every one of our devoted staff members. SMS truly is an amazing school and my time here has been very valued. Our staff continues to focus on learning and as a result of their endless devotion, our students' annual growth has earned state and local recognitions. This is a great sense of pride for our staff and community. The leadership of our administration and staff will continue to move SMS forward in ways that our community will continue its proud tradition of support."
SASD Superintendent, Dr. Aslyn, said to DrydenWire.com that Larrabee is " a valued member of the District's Leadership Team" and thanks him for "his dedication and hard work during his time in the SASD.
"We wish Brad and his family all the best as they take this next step in their lives together."
[Editor's Note: Below is our Dock Talk with Principal Larrabee that was published on April 26, 2017]
Dock Talk: Spooner Middle School Principal Brad Larrabee
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 | by Ben Dryden
SPOONER-- Spooner Middle School Principal Brad Larrabee recently sat down with DrydenWire.com for our 1st Dock Talk at the Dock Coffee in downtown Spooner. The Dock Talk will be a twice-monthly segment where we chat with a member of our community in a Q&A format.
What kind of coffee do you like and what are you drinking today?
I generally aim for mild coffee. Today I am enjoying the Dock Blend [The Dock Blend is a medium roast, three-bean blend: Guatemalan, Sumatra, and Costa Rican]
Do you drink a lot of coffee throughout the day at work?
I enjoy starting my day with a cup as the sun comes up. Throughout the day I have several cups. Working in the school system it is common to re-heat the same cup of coffee three or four times in a morning. It all depends on the day.
Tell us about your background in education?
I obtained my Bachelors of Science from the University of Wisconsin at Superior where I became licensed to teach Physical Education and Health. After an internship in Luck WI, I moved to the Eau Claire Area School District where I taught as a special education teacher for ten years. While in Eau Claire, I earned my Masters in Education from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and then my Educational Leadership license from Viterbo University in LaCrosse. Since coming to the SASD I earned a certification in the Art of Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and am currently enrolled in the Certification in Advanced Educational Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
How long have you been the Principal at SMS and what led you to the SASD?
Three years ago my family and I moved back to the area. I grew up in the Webster School District and after a large circle of Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, we decided to move back to Spooner to be closer to our family and raise our children.
What are your hobbies & interests outside of work?
Outside of education, I am an avid outdoorsman. I enjoy seasonal activities like hockey, ice fishing, swimming, mountain biking, various fall hunting. My family loves being outdoors and enjoys nearly all of Northern Wisconsin’s activities.
I recently posted on DrydenWire about the SMS winning an award, for those that didn’t see it, can you explain what it was for?
Each year the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recognizes high-performing Title I schools across the state. The recognitions are in three areas; High-Achieving Schools, High-Progress Schools or Beating the Odds Schools. The Spooner Middle School is being recognized as a “Beating the Odds School”. This award recognizes SMS as being within the top 25% of schools across the state when compared to schools of similar size and demographics.
Is this a big deal or is the award just going to be a paperweight?
This recognition from the DPI is a very large accomplishment. The staff at SMS have worked extremely hard to ensure that every student achieves to their greatest potential. This state recognition is the proof that our teachers reach every student and hold them all to high standards. Not to dismiss, it is always great for a school district to have your name announced in the state capital as a leader in education.
Was this something that is a direct reflection of your role as Principal at the SMS?
One of the greatest accomplishments of SMS over the past three years is our Response to Intervention program. This program was developed to enrich the learning of all students pertaining to their current achievement level. Each day our staff spend 30 minutes working with individualized student groups on supporting reading or mathematics growth, enriching their universal classroom instruction, or extending student learning beyond grade level expectations through experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. As a building, our staff has devoted great focus to growing this program to ensure that all students are engaged in learning and are provided with the supports they need to succeed.
What was the response from your peers, teachers, the admin and the board when the award was announced?
It was very exciting to make this announcement to our staff and community. The Spooner Middle School staff have accomplished great progress and are very proud to lead. This recognition by the Department of Public Instruction highlights our impact on students and the community.
We have published a few posts on the need for Broadband in rural Wisconsin, I think you even commented for one for those posts, has your position changed?
The expansion of Broadband to northern Wisconsin is vital to our growth. When we look at how businesses are operated today it is vital that we prepare our students for the progressing workforce demands. The expansion of Broadband to Spooner will ensure that our schools, businesses, and community have access to resources that will allow us to continue to grow.
With the hiring of Dr. Aslyn, that would make your 4th Superintendent in your short time at the SASD. What challenges has that created for you as a Principal?
Change in leadership impacts all organizations. With the changes that have occurred in the past three school years, it has been essential that our building leadership has remained constant. This stability ensures forward progress in instructional programming and professional development focused on our Districts mission for all students to Dream, Believe, Achieve, and Excel. It is very exciting for Dr. Aslyn to join our District. His leadership skills are well known amongst schools and he is joining a wonderful and committed staff, community and student body.
For those that don’t know, what role does the BOE play specifically in regards to your job?
A school district's Board of Education plays a pivotal role in setting the expectations for the district through governance policy, the employee handbook, and developing and implementing the school's mission, vision, and strategic plan. The BOE greatly impacts the role of a building principal as they establish the guidelines under which administrators work. These vital functions ensure that all staff maintains a consistent focus on providing high-quality instruction to all students and that the Districts financial decision are focused upon responsible facility management and academic programming.
The Board of Education has 7 members, how many different board members has there been during your tenure, and has that had any negative impact on your job?
Robert Hollen, Randy McQuade, Nate Eichorst, Christina Martin, Paul Gollner, Kyle Pierce, and John Hedlund were the BOE members who I was hired under Dr. Haak as superintendent. Since that time there have been many changes. Those community members who served included: Clay Halverson, Miles Macone, Viki Anderson, Karen Sorenson, Kevin King, Erin Burch, Paul Johnson, Nathanial Melton, and Julie Rich. As with any organization, each change in leadership impacts the functioning of the organization. The exchange of these 16 community members has represented diverse viewpoints and interests. To maintain consistency in programming for our students we must maintain consistency in leadership. This ensures that goals are able to be set and worked towards with consistency.
Why do you think the Board has had so many changes in its ranks?
Like all boards, a Board of Education is a political position. The turmoil that arose in the Spooner School District was not due to an individual or a single situation. BOE’s across the state have experienced the same challenges in funding, increasing costs, changes in staffing, and aging facilities. The Spooner area’s constituents must continue to increase their engagement and involvement in its school system. Education has changed over the past ten years greatly. The challenges that teachers and school districts face today are vast and our public needs to be informed in order to make informed decisions.
What are you the proudest of during your time at SMS?
Over the past three years, I am most proud of the impact that our teachers have had on each and every student at SMS. The Spooner Area School District has always had a proud tradition of excellence. However, not all students in the SASD have obtained their greatest potential. In the past three years, I am exceptionally proud of the impact that the Spooner Middle School’s teachers have had on every students’ performance. This devoted group of teachers significantly closed the achievement gap when looking at how our students perform compared to the state of Wisconsin. On the 2013-14 state test, SMS students scored 5.6% below the state average in English Language Arts and 7.2% below the state average in mathematics. In 2015-16 SMS students greatly reduced this achievement gap to 0.4% below the state average in English Language Arts and 2.2% in mathematics. This student performance data strongly supports our daily lesson planning, curriculum changes, and our Response to Intervention program. The devotion to student learning that the staff at the Spooner Middle School has is remarkable and will continue to improve each year.
How do you feel about your career choice in education?
I am extremely proud to be a member of the Spooner Area School District. Being an educator is life long commitment. I am energetic about learning alongside our staff and students each day. I cannot think of any another job where I would be able to learn and play every day of my career. Being an educator is truly a remarkable opportunity.