This is the time of year when students start counting down the days to the end of school.
These are Waconia High School Principal Mark Fredericksen’s final days of school too. But he’s not counting.
“There are plenty of students here to remind me,” he said laughing last Wednesday as the school days ticked down.
Fredericksen retires at the end of this school year after a 33-year career that spanned three Waconia high schools: the building that is now Bayview Elementary, the building that transitioned to the middle school, and the current high school.
A native of Lake Crystal, Minn., Fredericksen and his wife Deb came to Waconia after a six-year teaching stint near Spirit Lake, Iowa. They had to look at a map to see where Waconia was.
Now Fredericksen is on the map as the only principal the former high school, now middle school, ever had.
He joked at the final commencement there in 2017 that he was one of the building’s original fixtures.
“It is incredible to have a high school principal who has led in such a great way for more than three decades,” said Pat Devine, District 110 superintendent of schools. “Mark has had an enormous impact on so many students and has led ISD 110 through the opening of two new high schools. He will be dearly missed and be remembered for being such a positive influence in this district for so many years.”
Fredericksen joined the Waconia school district as half-time teacher, half-time assistant principal, and the first new high school was being constructed as he started his school administration career. He recalls that the new school was not fully complete when classes started.
There were no bells for class, much of the floor tile was not in place, and the shop section was not complete. Students had to be bused back and forth to the old high school for shop class
“Looking back, that was probably my most challenging year – until this one,” he said.
The past 14 months during the pandemic have posed challenges that neither he nor any other school administrator, teacher, student or parent could have imagined.
“We try to challenge kids in school and teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes,” Frederickson said. “Well, we had our challenges this year and made mistakes too.”
But that was okay, he said, adding there were some positive outcomes from the pandemic, like distance or e-learning, “which are likely to continue in some form even after the pandemic is behind us.”
In terms of WHS highlights, Fredericksen recalls “lots of great athletic moments.” One that stands out is Wildcat baseball team’s undefeated state championship season in 2017. And he says he still gets a lump in his throat every time the Waconia Marching Band parades down the boulevard.
But most of all, his career was about student relationships and achievements.
Former WHS students say he was able to capture the personality of each class. And a trip to the principal’s office wasn’t necessarily a perilous visit.
“It’s about cooperation not critique,” Frederickson said.
“Kids here treat, respect and support each other very well,” he adds, “and the staff, parents and community have been very supportive too.”
WHS staff say they appreciated Fredericksen’s open-door policy, sense of humor, honesty, respect and support for staff, his calming presence, his care for students, fun faculty meetings, coffee conversations with Fredericksen and his wife Deb, and how excited he is to be a grandparent.
Retirement plans include travel and grandchildren – a third grandchild just arrived and a fourth is on the way.
Fredericksen and staff say they also recall fondly the end of the school year gatherings and the fall all-district welcome-back.
“What I will really miss,” he said, “is the excitement of that first day of school.”