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SCC school board approves Clay as elementary principal

St. Croix Central Elementary Assistant Principal Shelly Clay has held her administrative licensure for the past 10 years without knowing for sure if she wanted to pursue a principalship or not because she loved teaching so much.

However, when elementary school principal Pete Nusbaum was approved by the school board to take over as the middle school principal this summer, Clay couldn't ignore the outpouring of support she received from the staff and parents at the elementary school.

"Pete Nusbaum and I have worked day-in and day-out the last two years, to continue building an elementary school where students and staff feel safe, happy and love learning," Clay said. "Deep down I feel I owe the staff and students at SCC Elementary the consistent leadership and modeling in a true attempt of reaching our goals."

The St. Croix Central School Board approved Clay's promotion to elementary school principal at its Feb. 6 board learning and special meeting. According to superintendent Tim Widiker, Clay received support from nearly every staff member at the elementary school in a recent survey.

"The survey confirmed that consistency in leadership is important considering the changes in leadership at the elementary the last four years," Widiker said. "Shelly has demonstrated strong leadership as the assistant principal the last two years and she has demonstrated success as a teacher in the classroom at SCC for 16 years. Having walked in the shoes of a teacher at SCC Elementary for that many years prepared her for being an empathetic, effective leader of staff and students at SCC. She is so well-liked by staff because she has built trust over many years by being a genuine, caring, compassionate and effective educator."

Clay was hired as the part-time assistant principal when the position was created for the 2015-16 school year, while also continuing to teach second grade part-time. The position was bumped up to a full-time job at the beginning of this school year.

"After spending over 16 years in a building and community full of compassionate, caring and hard-working students, staff and parents, I knew that this is where I wanted to give my heart every day," Clay said. "The St. Croix Central School District and its school board is a place full of motivated, intelligent, and innovative educators who strive daily to enhance student achievement and for that I wanted to seek a position where I could continue this drive. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a genuine passion for helping others and that is what I want to do in this position."

Clay completed her Bachelor Degree in elementary education, with a minor in early childhood, from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 2001 then went on to get her Master's Degree in professional development at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2004. Clay acquired her K-12 principal licensure in 2006 from St. Thomas. From 2001-16, Clay taught early childhood special education, kindergarten, second and third grade at Central before becoming the full-time assistant principal — as well as 4K director and summer school director — this school year.

"I am excited to take on this role and continue working on the initiatives we have started in the past years. Things like PBIS, student council, WIN time, PLC teams ... have been a huge part of who we are at the elementary school and I can't wait to continue helping these pieces of who we are grow," Clay said. "The other thing I am most excited for is looking at the way staff and students feel about school. I want every student to come to school and enjoy what they are learning and know why they are learning it. I want them to have voice and choice in what they are learning in an attempt to motivate them to be lifelong learners."

Though her title is changing, Clay doesn't feel as though the transition from assistant principal to principal will be a difficult one for her given how closely she worked with Nusbaum for the last two years.

"During this time, I never felt that I was working for him, but rather side-by-side with him. He taught me so much about leadership and allowed me to take on roles and duties that another leader may not have," Clay said. "... However, being involved in a variety of levels of leadership already, I feel confident that I have had great exposure and experience and I look forward to having this type of relationship with the new assistant principal as well."

Even if an unexpected challenge presents itself, Clay feels she is ready to take it head on.

"'I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.' — Thomas Jefferson. This is a quote that I live by daily. So, although there may be some challenges along the way, there will be nothing I can't handle," Clay said. " I feel that my excellent communication skills, dedication, work ethic, and educational leadership skills will help me to excel at the new position."

Though Clay has several ideas and plans she wants to get started working on when she takes over as principal this summer, her first task will be to build relationships with everyone at the elementary school.

"My first plan is to build a solid relationship with all students, staff and community members and the rest will come when we are ready and it is the right time," Clay said. "I plan to be myself, lead with an open mind and collaborate with parents and community members for what is best for students."

The one person who might have more confidence in her future success as principal at the elementary school than Clay herself is Widiker.

"I just told Shelly to be herself. The Shelly she has been at SCC for 17 years has been very successful," Widiker said. "Shelly will build on an already strong foundation at the elementary and put her own little personal stamp on the culture to make it her own.

"SCC is lucky to have her and we all are excited to see her continue her personal leadership journey and take SCC Elementary from great to even better."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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