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After the first bell at new building

The long-awaited opening of East Ridge High School has finally arrived, and everyone is wondering how did it go? The Bulletin recently sat down with principal Aaron Harper to discuss the first week of school.

Q: What was the first day of school like?

A: It was just running around being crazy and all the emotion attached to it -- kind of all that rolled up into one. It was emotional, it was draining, super exciting, energizing, crazy. But also trying to take a moment to live in the moment and realize that it's a special day.

Q: What was it like for the kids on first day school?

A: We had no criers, so we're good. By 9:30,10 it honestly felt like a well -oiled machine, which was both rewarding and surprising.

Q: What has the first week of school been like?

A: It has been lot of the same as the first day. Since it is the year of the firsts it felt nice to be able to put an end to a week. It felt good.

Q: What have been some of the kinks you have had to face this week?

A: You have some kinks, outside of my control, one of those for example is transportation -- a few buses not arriving when they're supposed to. But you also have some things within your control that you have to resolve like the bell systems, making announcements, trying to work on the system of procedures and processes.

Q: Have any of the kinks been frustrating to deal with?

A: We all have a threshold of patience, we all have a threshold of frustration. My challenge as a leader is to try and bridge those two gaps and try to put enough pressure on folks to get some things done and come up with some keen solutions and go from there. That's the best we can do.

Q: Throughout the week, how did the students seem to transition?

A: Many of the students settled into somewhat of a routine, they felt more confident, more comfortable. I think they, as a school, as a community, are starting to gel more together which is always helpful. What we're trying to start here is we have a culture here at East Ridge where kids belong and they look out for each other.

Q: How has the first week gone for the staff?

A: I have never worked with a staff who has been more dedicated, energetic, optimistic and quite frankly embracing the 'can do' attitude. They have been all-star troopers. They have been very positive and energetic. Their patience and their persistence in being patient has really paid off.

Q:: What has it been like to transition back into being an educator?

A: It's been nice to try and put away all the construction-related tasks that have formerly been in my job description and really focus on kids. I've really enjoyed that, but it has also been a challenge because the construction items are still here. For a minute here I will have one foot on one side of the fence in the construction world and the other in more of the education world, which I'm trying to fall over the fence in that direction.

Q: Have you seen the community forming within the school?

A: When you see kids grabbing other kids that they don't know and inviting them over to sit with them, talk with them, get to know them, it's more than just getting along. Getting along is two kids playing in the sand box without throwing sand. Getting along is very low level. What I'm seeing, what I'm experiencing, is different than that. These kids want to be together, they want to get to know each other and they want to help each other be successful. That is successful. You have been successful. But there's always room for improvement. Up to this point I have been thrilled at how the kids have embraced their new school, how they have embraced their new culture and their new pride.

Q: What do you want to accomplish this year?

A: I have a lot of lofty goals. The top goal is to make sure our community of learners understand that we're here because it's an academic institution and ultimately why we're here is to improve our learning. It's really to create that environment, that culture, and really set students up for success.

Q: What are you thoughts now that East Ridge has finally become a part of District 833?

A: I just really look forward to working with the larger community and having them come into this beautiful facility that they built. In addition to that, I would like to thank them for that opportunity. I am very confident that what they were voting yes to was opportunity for kids. Yes you can visually see a beautiful facility, but I think symbolically it should tell folks that it's opportunities for kids because that's what's really going on inside of the building.

Q: Are you confident that this year will be a good year for everyone?

A: Without a doubt it will be an outstanding year. I believe in life you have two types of people. People that make things happen and those people who watch things happen. I believe we have a number of students, staff and leaders that are of the group who will make things happen.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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