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Superintendent says farewell

After seven years with the Pequot Lakes School District, Superintendent Rick Linnell is retiring.

June 30 marks Rick’s last day after 32 years in education. After that, he plans to spend time working on projects around his cabin that he hasn’t been able to get to. He’ll also enjoy more fishing and golfing, he said.

Rick, better known as Mr. Linnell around the schools, said one thing he’s most proud of after seven years is the district’s improved academic scores. Literacy levels have gone up 20-22 percent district wide, and special education numbers are down 11.6-16.3 percent, he said.

“That’s hard work by everybody in the district. The staff in this district is absolutely wonderful,” he said.

Rick said that when he came to Pequot Lakes, he and staff changed the culture of the district to focus more on the students and student achievements, which he’s also proud of.

He added that he’s pleased the district has moved into a great financial position.

“The students will be the benefactor of that,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges he met, he said, was passing the building bond referendum. The new building project, he said, has been ongoing from strategic planning six years ago. That building project will soon be completed.

Rick grew up in Grand Marais, graduating from Cook County High School. He got is Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, with a teaching certificate in biology.

His teaching career began in Holly, Minn., where over the course of 15 years he taught biology, physical education, driver’s education and health. He also coached women’s volleyball, gymnastics and men’s track and was assistant coach for men’s basketball.

He shared memories of teaching driver’s education: A student once pulled out in front of a fire truck with lights and sirens, and another once pulled out going the wrong direction on a four-lane highway. There were never any major accidents, though.

“There were a lot of good kids, a lot of good teachers. I have good memories of the teaching aspect,” Rick said.

Rick went on to get his master’s degree in curriculum and assessment from the University of St. Thomas, and his K-12 administration license from Tri-College University.

In 1996, Rick became high school principal in St. Clair, and a year later became superintendent.

Since accepting the superintendent position in Pequot Lakes in 2006, Rick’s been staying at his family’s lake home on Sullivan Lake southeast of Brainerd. His family is based in St. Clair, and Rick has commuted on the weekends to be with his family.

“It’s been difficult. You try to dedicate so much time to the staff and students. I’ve missed a lot, but I’ve made it back to a lot, too,” he said.

His wife, Anne, is a second-grade teacher in St. Clair. His daughter, Kelsey, just graduated high school, and his son, Eric, is interning in Asheville, N.C., as he studies athletic training.

Rick said he pursued administration because teaching began to become monotonous. Being superintendent is different, he said.

“Different issues come up, and you deal with those on a day-to-day basis, an hour-to-hour basis,” he said.

“As a superintendent, you try to find the direction the school district is going to move forward, and how that’s going to benefit the students academically,” he said.

He said the job was stressful at times, “but if you have good people working for you, that helps. I’ve been very fortunate with that here, and at (other) districts.”