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Same school, different view

After serving two years as principal in Battle Lake, Minn., Ken Gagner is back at Morris Area Elementary School to serve as principal.

MORRIS - Although returning to Morris feels like coming home for new Morris Area Elementary School Principal Ken Gagner, the view from behind the principal's desk will take some getting used to.

"When I was here for 22 years, I took care of my classroom; that was my number one priority," said Gagner, who served as a coach and fifth grade teacher in Morris from 1988 to 2010.

"Now I'm taking care of 25 classrooms, all the teachers in the building and all the kids in the building," he continued. "It's a much different perspective when you're sitting on this side of the desk."

Although Gagner spent most of his career in education as a teacher, administration was always something that he hoped to try. When his youngest of three children graduated from MAHS in 2010, it provided an opportunity for Gagner to step into administration.

"Administration was something I always had an interest in, but I loved the community and wanted to raise our kids here," said Gagner. "Knowing that, [administration] was something I just put on the back-burner."

After finishing his Education Leadership Specialist Degree at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Gagner accepted a position as the PreK-8 principal for the Battle Lake Public School system - a return to the small school environment he grew up in.

"I graduated with 13 students in my class, so I am a small school kid," said Gagner. "Going to Battle Lake, it really was a good fit for me." While at Battle Lake, Gagner said he got to do a little bit of everything, working with students from preschool all the way to high school seniors.

Just two years after Gagner moved to Battle Lake, MAES principal Brad Korn announced his retirement, and Gagner threw his hat in the ring for the job. After a round of interviews, Gagner was offered the position and began working in the district again on July 1.

"Because of raising our kids here, it's like home to me," said Gagner.

For Gagner, experience in the classroom is an important part of his perspective as principal. He said he sees his role as supportive - giving teachers what they need so they can do a great job teaching.

One change already in motion is an increase in district technology. By the middle of the fall, MAES will have smart boards in every kindergarten through fifth grade classroom.

Gagner's top priorities for the upcoming school year are to help all students in the district - regardless of ability - show emotional, social and academic growth and to maintain a focus on having a safe and secure school environment.

Gagner also hopes to increase communication and plans to get out in the community for events in the district - "The door is open, and I want people to always feel comfortable coming in if they have thoughts or questions," he said.

He also plans to update a principal's website, which is online at or linked off the MAES website,

Gagner would like to thank the community and staff for the warm welcome and also thank outgoing principal Brad Korn for his many years of service to the district: "I always enjoyed working for Brad. He was a true advocate for children and supported his staff."