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New high school principals Paul Sparby and Tonya Constantine set to welcome students back to school (Al Lohman/The Patriot)

There will be several new faces greeting Waconia High School students when the new school year begins Monday, Aug. 30 – starting at the top.

After more than 30 years, Principal Mark Fredericksen will no longer be at the door welcoming students. He retired after the 2020-2021 school year. Instead, in a kind of changing of the guard, Paul Sparby will be there as principal and Tonya Constantine as assistant principal.

“I would be nervous about the first day if I hadn’t served under Mark for three years,” Sparby. “He had a good system in place.”

So, instead of nerves, the feeling was more excitement last week as student athletes returned to start practices for fall and as new teachers arrived for orientation in preparation for the start of school next week.

“You can already feel the energy in the building,” Sparby said.

In fact, the biggest change Sparby expects this school year is a kind of “return to normal” after the pandemic interrupted the past two school years. Although both principals acknowledge the challenges of COVID-19 remain and there are protocols in place to address them, including masks and vaccines recommended but not required, health screenings and quarantining, and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing.

Sparby came to Waconia with 20 years of experience as a school principal, including high school principal in the Glencoe-Silver Lake school district and elementary school principal stints in New Richland and Northfield, Minn.

In recruiting an assistant principal, Sparby said he was looking for someone “not like me,” but with a different set of skills and strengths to team with on student issues and build relationships with staff, students and parents.

Constantine comes to the Waconia school district from Virginia, Minn., where she served as the assistant principal at Rock Ridge Public Schools. She has more than 20 years’ previous experience as a teacher and instructional coach with Eastern Carver County Schools.

Constantine calls the Waconia position a “dream job for me” and Waconia schools appealing for other educators, and both principals note that it’s unusual for the high school to bring on the level of new staff it has this year. But with recent retirements and moves, there will be seven new instructors and a new school nurse at the high school this year, also a new marching band director and some athletic coaches.

An introduction to all 24 new school district staff will be featured next week during the first week of school.

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