Hyde selected as new elementary principalCloquet High School Assistant Principal Connie Hyde has been hired as the new principal of Washington Elementary School.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Cloquet High School Assistant Principal Connie Hyde has been hired as the new principal of Washington Elementary School.
Last Friday, the Cloquet School Board voted unanimously to offer the position to Hyde, 47, from a field of three finalists.
When she assumes her new job in the fall, Hyde will be just the third principal at Washington in the last 40 years. Randy Thudin, who is retiring in June, had held the post for the previous 16 years.
“I am so excited,” Hyde said. “I’m going to miss Randy. He has been a real mentor and a friend, and he’s going to be missed.”
Hyde holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and a Master of Arts degree in curriculum and instruction from Chapman University in Orange, Calif.
She started her teaching career in Arizona before becoming a substitute teacher in several Northland districts and, eventually, an art teacher in Moose Lake. She has also served as assistant principal of the Cloquet Middle School and is the current principal of the Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program (CAAEP).
“It’s a well run system (the district),” Hyde said. “That’s a great thing. I like this community so much, and I really like these people.”
“There wasn’t much discussion,” board chair Gary Huard said. “Everyone felt comfortable with the decision. I thought the whole process was handled fantastically.”
Three separate groups – a parent group, a teachers’ group and an administrative team that included board members Dave Battaglia, Dan Danielson and Sandy Crowley – reviewed applications and conducted initial interviews to pare the field from over two dozen applicants first to seven finalists and then, finally, to three.
B.J. Berg, principal of South Terrace Elementary in Carlton and Lisa Edwards, principal of Windom Elementary School, were the other two finalists.
“We felt comfortable that for this position at this point in time, [Hyde] was the best choice,” Huard said.
Huard said one of the reasons for the hiring was Hyde’s loyalty to the district.
“It’s everything that Connie has had to do in the district,” Huard said. “We [the board] have put her in tough positions before, and she does the best she can. She is very strong. She’s a strong leader and that is what we need at this point.”
“I am a lifelong learner,” Hyde said. “I am the one who is grateful. I’ve been given opportunities in this district that other people don’t have. I have taught everything from elementary school to adult education, and now I have had the opportunity to be an administrator at all those levels.”
Hyde is regarded as a strong personality by the board, which made a difference.
“We need a strong personality that is going to be a little aggressive and I think things, to an extent, were passive,” Huard said. “We needed a change of direction. We all felt that with Connie’s personality, she was the best suited.”
Despite strong qualifications, Hyde was also the only finalist without experience as an elementary principal.
“If there was a negative, it was that she hasn’t had that type of background,” Huard said. “But because she had taught in the elementary setting, we felt she could make that adjustment. There were pros and cons on all the individuals and we [the school board] had to be the final judge. For us though, it was a no-lose situation.”
“As an administrator, there are qualifications you have to have regardless of level,” Hyde said. “There are leadership skills, too, and I bring those with me as part of who I am.”
In the end, the board selected a candidate with an undoubted passion for education, who is also well-schooled in the district due to her ongoing participation at board meetings in her role with CAAEP and the high school.
“That wasn’t our intent [to hire someone simply because they were the local candidate],” Huard said. “After all the screening, it just worked out that way. It ended up being Connie as the best candidate.”