After being victim to budget cuts, Lang finds new home

Hayley Lang was not showing her emotions in the Forest Lake Area School District school board chambers. Being someone who tries to turn emotions into energy, Lang listened and thought of her next steps as it was announced that her position had been cut due to budget constraints in 2017. 

“There’s always that feeling of sadness, because this is my family,” Lang said. “You put your heart and soul into your career and your life — most people in education do. But I remember ultimately sadness but also knowing that there are always opportunities.” 

This was the second time and second district in five years to cut a position Lang held. So once again, she found herself looking for a new job. 

However, her absence would not last long, as she would return to the district and has now been named the new principal of Forest Lake Area Middle School. 

Forest Lake Area Middle School 

When the Forest Lake Area School District decided to combine their two middle schools in 2017, John-Paul Jacobson became the sole principal for the two buildings. Jacobson was in charge of both buildings in their final year being separate. In his role, he would prepare the community, students, and families for the transition into one building after years of being two. 

“Whenever you have a blank canvas in front of you, you have the chance to start anew in a lot of ways,” Jacobson said. “You have all the different voices that should be in the room there, and they are all engaged in the conversation. That [was] my fondest memory from that year.” 

Many nights were spent in the media center at Forest Lake Area Middle School, planning what the new school’s culture would be like and working with families to ensure they offered the best education possible to their students. 

Jacobson came to the district in 2015 as the principal at Century Junior High and worked his way into his current role. Now the middle school principal is taking another challenge as he will transition into being the district’s director of teaching and learning now that current director Diane Giorgi has announced her retirement. 

But Jacobson helping create the culture at Forest Lake Area Middle School will not soon be forgotten as he works with the school’s next principal, Lang. Although neither administrator moves into their new role until July 1, the conversations have already begun on continuing the work Jacobson has put into the school since its opening in the fall of 2018. 

“We’re kind of in the transition process; he and I talked for two-plus hours today working through how do I fill his shoes,” Lang said. “These are big shoes to fill.” 

Deciding on a career

When Lang first arrived at college, she did not know what she wanted to do with her life. When she was younger, Lang thought she would be in law enforcement, so when she got to college, she began studying psychology, but she knew it wasn’t suitable for her.

“There was somewhat of a natural pull towards education, and I talked to a mentor at St. Cloud, and she said ‘We can do that,’” Lang said. “I wasn’t a high school kid who knew what they were doing for sure, but I did have a couple of educators along the way in social studies who were a direct correlation.” 

In 2005, after receiving her degree, she went on to work in the North Branch school district as a social studies teacher until 2012. Unfortunately, in her seventh year of teaching, budget constraints resulted in her position being cut — this would be the first time, but not the last, she was on the wrong end of a budget cut. 

However, Lang would not be done in the North Branch district just yet as she transitioned into the district’s instructional coaching position that opened up. Lang spent three years in the position and got her first taste of being in administration. 

Lang moved on from North Branch in 2015 and found a position in the Forest Lake Area School District at the high school as the dean of students. 

In the fall of 2016, Lang took the next step in her administrative career, becoming an assistant principal at Southwest Middle School. Unfortunately, this was before the Forest Lake Area School District combined the two middle schools into one, resulting in her position being cut for the second time in her career. 

“I have been on both sides of budget cuts. I have been someone who has felt the funding, as an educator, be that business side, and I have been the principal that has had to also talk to educators about how part of this, unfortunately, is a business too,” Lang said. 

After being cut in the spring of 2017, she began looking for a new position. Lang wound up being hired as the associate principal in charge of activities for Chisago Lakes, but she wouldn’t be there for long. 

Coming back to Forest Lake 

In her contract with the Forest Lake Area School District, it was required that the district reach out to anyone they had cut when a position opened up. This happened in the spring of 2018 when the assistant principal position opened at Forest Lake Area High School. 

“I jumped at the opportunity to be able to come back to Forest Lake,” she said. 

Lang was hired as the high school’s assistant principal and has been in the district ever since. 

When it was announced that Jacobson would be taking over for Giorgi, Lang saw the opportunity to take the next step in her career once again. 

It was announced at the Forest Lake Area School Board meeting on May 6 that Lang would be taking over for Jacobson, and now the twice-cut educator will continue to impact students through her life’s calling. 

“Education, once I got in, for me, it quickly became more than a career; it became a calling,” Lang said. 

At Forest Lake Area Middle School, Jacobson and staff have been working to expose students to different careers they otherwise might not experience. Now Lang will get to continue this work in helping students experience more than just basic curriculum. 

Lang never knew what she wanted to do when she was growing up, and it wasn’t until she was in college that she decided on education. Now she gets the opportunity to help kids experience different careers to make their own decisions one day. 

“We put kids first; we put staff first. We make sure that we’re aligning our goals to each other, making sure that we are doing what’s best for our kids and making sure that they have those prerequisite skills to go out and do what they want to do next,” Lang said. 

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