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New Elementary Principal begins first year with PR-B in a big way

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IN THE WAKE OF SPRING BUDGET CUTS, PINE RIVER-BACKUS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL RICK AULIE HAS ALREADY WORKED HARD ON AN IMPORTANT ISSUE AT PR-B.

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Though Aulie officially started July 1, he has already had a hand in reducing the sting from one of less popular cuts made at PR-B this past spring. Due to a limited staff and budget, PR-B kindergartners were facing a school year without physical education classes. Aulie worked with the school board and superintendent to ensure that those students would have some physical education, if not as much as everyone wanted.

“I wanted to try to create an opportunity for the kids to get into the gym during the week and have that time. So I approached the superintendent with an idea and what we did was we were able to get the school board to authorize one 30-minute physical education class for each kindergarten class per week,” Aulie said.

In addition, kindergartners will have an additional half hour per week in “motor development time.” Students at that time will be developing fine motor skills and coordination under supervision of a school employee. Activities during this time will include dribbling, running, exercises, stretching and, sometimes, time outside.

“We’re doing our best to make this work,” Aulie said. “It isn’t ideal. I think everyone would be able to agree that all children should be able to have physical education, and that’s our goal. As we look at our priorities for next year, that’s going to be something I’m certainly pushing for.”

Aulie is a former kindergarten teacher from Brainerd, but most recently served as principal at Fosston Elementary School. He began work at PR-B following the retirement of former principal Jackie Bruns. He chose to apply at PR-B partially because of its proximity to his and his wife’s family in Crosby-Ironton and Brainerd.

Aulie currently lives in Brainerd, though that could soon change.

“For the time being, my two boys and I will ride up and do the 28-mile commute until we’re able to get our housing situation figured out,” Aulie said. “Then we’ll be able to move up. We still plan on being a part of the community and spending time at events and activities.”

Though the school year is only just starting, Aulie has already had the chance to begin to get to know students, staff and parents through PTO meetings, Early Childhood Coalition meetings, teacher in service trainings and parades in both Pine River and Backus. Aulie also has received personal contact from parents through emails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings.

“I’ve received a lot of emails, or even a lot of phone calls. So that’s been appreciated. That’s how you meet people, stopping in and visiting, so I encourage anyone who hasn’t had a chance to do that and would like to speak to me to send me an email or give me a call there at school,” Aulie said. “Overall, I’m very pleased with how I’ve been welcomed.”

Aulie looks forward to the school year in a new setting. He expects to improve his understanding of the school and its system, and also to be a big part of the school leadership.

“I’m very excited for the kids to get back to school and to start learning their names and to see our staff at work as we shape their minds and develop them into 21st century learners,” Aulie said.

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