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New Pine Hill principal preaches ‘collective responsibility’

Jolaine Mast is home again — sort of.

“The metro area has always felt like home,” she said. “My mom grew up here as a kid. This was the kind of spot we always thought we’d come to.”

That happened earlier this year, when District 833 hired Mast, an Iowa native, as the new principal of Pine Hill Elementary School. She succeeds Stacy DeCorsey, who accepted a position as elementary principal at Excelsior Elementary in the Minnetonka Public Schools.

“Throughout the hiring process, we were impressed with Mrs. Mast’s background as a principal leader, her positive attitude about public education and our purpose, as well as her ability to meet the needs of all types of learners,” Superintendent Keith Jacobus said in an e-mailed statement. “Her expertise will serve the Pine Hill School community well.”

Mast earned her master’s degree in education policy and leadership studies and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Iowa.

Mast served four years as elementary principal in Wapsie Valley Community Schools in Fairbank, Iowa. She was principal for two elementary schools and four “rural schools” that served about 130 Amish students. Wapsie is one of only two or three school districts in the state whose teachers are directly involved with the Amish community.

Wapsie Superintendent Chad Garber said Mast’s influence extended beyond the elementary school level all the way through grade 12. He said she changed the way they think about teaching and learning.

“Her leadership here will be sorely missed,” he said. “It’s fair to say she led well enough that she built capacity and (hired) people who are still working here. She was a leader. She made us a better system.”

Mast and husband, Corey, a stay-at-home dad, now live in Woodbury with their three children, Rorra, 10, (short for Aurora), Liam, 7, and Duncan, 3. Rorra and Liam will be attending Pine Hill Elementary School this fall.

The family has tried to spend as much time outside as possible, Mast said. They’re saving the indoor activities for winter.

“We still feel like we’re kind of on vacation,” Mast said. “It was a dream to come here. Sometimes we still can’t believe we’re not going home.”

As principal, Mast said one of her first orders of business is to “listen and meet people.”

She said she intends to encourage “collective responsibility” for each student at Pine Hill.

“We’re going to be very good at making sure students get the help they need in a timely manner,” she said. “We’re doing it as a system. Everybody in the building is working together to accomplish that.”