Former principal returns in new role
It wasn't as dramatic a return as Brett Favre with the Vikings, but New Richmond saw its own version of a comeback last week.
Mike Ballard is back as a principal in the New Richmond School District.
After serving as the principal at Westside Elementary in River Falls for four years, the former New Richmond Middle School principal has decided to return and serve as Paperjack Elementary's new principal. He replaces Steve Wojan, who retired at the end of the last school year.
He was officially hired on Monday, Aug. 9.
Ballard quit during a tumultuous time for the New Richmond School District. He said that he kept his eye on the school district throughout his time in River Falls.
Ballard paused before explaining his decision to return.
"From afar I've been able to observe a notable change in New Richmond schools," he said.
Some areas of change he mentioned were leadership and community and board support.
"I do feel there are very high expectations in New Richmond right now," Ballard said.
Ballard, a 1987 graduate of New Richmond High School, has a home in town that he built with his wife Jenny. Partially due to the housing market, they still live in New Richmond, even when they both were working in River Falls. Jenny is a sixth grade language arts teacher in River Falls.
"Leaving River Falls was an extremely difficult decision," Ballard said.
His own children attend school there.
"We walked together into school every day," he said.
But the draw of working again in his hometown is what led him to take the position.
"I'm a New Richmondite through and through," he said with a smile.
He said he thinks it's pretty cool to be able to go back to his town and educate the young people there.
Ballard hopes to be a positive force at Paperjack Elementary.
"My first goal is to try to be able to connect with the students, staff and parents," he said. "We're really not in the people business, we're in the relationship business."
He said he hopes to get to know families and kids so he can build strong relationships.
"Filling Mr. Wojan's shoes will not be easy," Ballard said. "Trying to live up to and meet those expectations is going to be a challenge."
In addition to serving as the principal, Ballard will be the district's technology coordinator and also will oversee the 4K program.
The 2010-11 school year begins Sept. 1 for 4K through ninth grade students. Tenth through twelfth grade students begin the year Sept. 2. Kindergartners report on Sept. 3.