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Kinsgland superintendent takes new job closer to home

SPRING VALLEY — After spending seven years in Kingsland Public Schools, Superintendent John McDonald is heading north.

McDonald will be superintendent of Northland Community Schools starting next school year in Remer, which is closer to his permanent residence near Brainerd.

Kingsland Elementary School Principal James Hecimovich will act as interim superintendent for one year.

"Mr. Hecimovich has been a longstanding administrator with a background and knowledge with the district," McDonald said. "Rather than finding a new superintendent at this time of the year, we chose to go with an interim for a year."

Hecimovich will serve as both superintendent and principal while a the district seeks a full-time elementary school principal.


Depending on what direction the school board decides to take with Hecimovich after a year, it may well be that he could remain in the superintendent position. If not, he would still have the option of being considered the top candidate for the principal position.

His path through education

McDonald has spent 40 years of his life dedicated to being an educator. For 13 of those years, he was a principal at Pequot Lakes High School. Before that, he was a teacher for two decades, and was also a sports coach.

"I've taught longer than anything else that I have done," he said. "It's a new experience, and I've enjoyed the last seven years. The Kingsland Public Schools created some wonderful programs for students, even while dealing with challenges and declining enrollment … they've done some really nice things for their kids."

McDonald's tenure included putting technology into the hands of students: iPads for younger students and netbooks for high school students. The district also has a strong "college-in-schools" program , which allows students to complete college courses and receive credits for them while still in high school.

The district has made a strong commitment to STEM education, and has supported the district's elementary school teachers in a reading certification program through Saint Mary's University. The district also implemented a comprehensive literacy program for all students to improve reading skills and teach content at the same time.

"We have a lot of things we are proud of about Kingsland," McDonald said.

One of the bigger challenges for the district has been declining enrollment and the closing of the Wykoff school building.


"We have to make decisions and keep the focus on our students," McDonald said of the school closing. "We needed to make it about the kids, not about the building."

Ready to go home

For the past seven years, McDonald has spent weekdays in Spring Valley and weekends at his home north of Brainerd, more than three hours away.

He joked about having to get used to saying "up north" rather than saying "coming down" to southeastern Minnesota.

McDonald will start his new job in Northland Community Schools on July 1. One of his first duties will be to host a grand opening of the district's new $26 million school facilities.

Until then, his office will be housed in a town bank building.

"It's going to be a community celebration and a proud moment for all our communities," he said.

McDonald said he will miss the relationships he had with staff and students at Kingsland.


"I've very much enjoyed my time in Kingsland Public Schools and Spring Valley," he said. "I'll miss the students, teachers and the community. I've had opportunities to work with some wonderful people. It's bittersweet. … I'll miss them."

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