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Former area principals continue education careers

John and Kristil McDonald are continuing their careers in education while living in the lakes area. Nancy Vogt/Echo Journal1 / 2
Nancy Vogt/Echo Journal John and Kristil McDonald are continuing their careers in education while living in the lakes area.2 / 2

Two former area high school principals spent the last seven years working in different parts of the state, but they always kept their roots in the lakes area.

Now, John and Kristil McDonald once again return to their North Long Lake home each night.

John, a 13-year high school principal in Pequot Lakes, left in 2010 to become superintendent for Kingsland Public Schools in Spring Valley in southeastern Minnesota. This year, he became superintendent of Northland Community Schools in Remer, a much closer commute from his rural Brainerd home.

Kristil worked for Pine River-Backus Schools for 10 years, including five years as principal for grades 7-12. She then took that same job with Clearbrook-Gonvick Schools, where she worked for three years.

"I went two and a half hours north and he went four and a half hours south and we met in the middle at home on the weekends," Kristil said of those years. "I just wanted to be home, and at least one of us wasn't traveling anymore."

Kristil became a Minnesota Regional Centers of Excellence School Advocate with Resource Training and Solutions in Sartell, a service cooperative that has groups of advocates in specialty areas that work with designated schools. For three years she served schools from the east central to southwest corner of the state.

Most recently, she was promoted to be an educational systems specialist. One of three such positions, these specialists support the teams of advocates and their directors who work with schools that score lowest in state testing.

While her job entails traveling, Kristil is able to live at home, and she enjoys making a greater difference at this point of her career.

"It's a challenge for me professionally," she said. "If I can really make a difference in a school, how more rewarding can it be?"

Kristil also said it's a relief to have John back home full time after seven years.

"We're definitely partners in everything we do, so I hope to be involved and engaged in his community," she said of the Northland Community Schools area.

John enjoys his shorter commute to the district that serves Remer, Longville, Outing, Boy River and Federal Dam.

At Kingsland, John is proud to have helped implement advanced offerings for students, including building a strong College in the Schools program, having teachers earn credits to teach college courses and having high school students earn Associate of Arts degrees. He also helped implement Project Lead the Way in engineering

John said he brought knowledge of those programs from Pequot Lakes to Kingsland.

He now looks forward to his work at Northland Community Schools, which just completed building a $26 million school.

He plans to continue what has been positive in the school district and help improve education as best he can with his knowledge.

"As you go from one school to the next, you bring your experiences and hope to add it to the school and hopefully make education even better for students," he said.