by Logan Gruber
Laurie Putnam, assistant principal of South Junior High, was recently chosen as the new principal of Kennedy Community School. Only a few weeks ago, the district announced Dr. Judy Nagel, principal of Kennedy, will resign at the end of the year.
Putnam said the transition is already taking place, and she will hopefully be at Kennedy by mid-June. She also said she won’t sign a contract yearly since the St. Cloud School District’s policy is to agree to ongoing contracts.
“I’ve had a special place in my heart for Kennedy because my daughter started kindergarten there,” Putnam said in a Newsleader interview. “It’s such a welcoming and warm place…I love elementary and middle-school-aged children.”
Putnam is originally from Skowhegan, Maine, about 50 miles west of Bangor. She met her husband, Aric, at grad school in Maine and came with him when he headed to Minnesota to pursue his doctoral degree.
Aric Putnam is a professor of communication at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. They have one daughter and one son: Eliza, a fifth-grader; and Phin, a third-grader. Putnam and her family live on the south side of St. Cloud.
“When we moved to the St. Cloud area, we did consider St. Joseph, but we found just the house we were looking for in St. Cloud,” Putnam said.
She started her career in Minnesota in 2000 working in Minneapolis public schools as a school counselor, though working in school administration was always a goal for her.
“I started working toward my administration licensure through Hamline University in 2002,” Putnam said.
She finished her licensure in 2007 and took a job as a school counselor in the St. Cloud School District in 2009, working part-time through some of her tenure in both Minneapolis and St. Cloud.
“My priority was to be there for my young children,” she noted.
Putnam eventually earned the assistant-principal position at South Junior High, which she held from 2012 through today.
Putnam describers her leadership style as “inclusive.” She says she really looks forward to building relationships between community stakeholders, parents and the school.
At South Junior High, Putnam and other staff used a program called “Partners for Student Success” as a model for their work. Putnam and her staff looked at other places in the community that serve students before or after school, partnered with those organizations or businesses and hosted monthly meetings to brainstorm how to combine services. Their goal was to bring those outside stakeholders into the schools and get faculty and staff outside in order to build the community and make sure they are serving the students as best they can.
“Once I formally take over [at Kennedy], I’ll be setting up time for people to come in and meet me,” Putnam said. “But Nagel remains the principal until the end of June.”
Putnam said Kennedy families are always welcome to contact her at her district email, firstname.lastname@example.org, though she wanted to remind people again she has no say in the 2014-15 school year at Kennedy.
“I’m not a heavy-handed person…I’m not expecting to come in and make unilateral changes,” she said.
Putnam said she is really excited to work with younger kids, as well as the junior-high-age kids.
“I love the kindergarten through eighth-grade range Kennedy Community School offers…the positive impact we can have on their lives over nine years is such a gift,” she said.
“I’m so excited to get to know the students, their hopes and dreams so I can help bring them to fruition,” she said. “And lots of teachers have reached out to me already. It’s really impressive.”
Putnam noted she will be at the Kennedy walkathon in May to begin meeting some members of the community.