The beginning of a new academic year can bring excitement and anticipation. For students and staff, gearing up for classes in September, it is likely that new experiences and challenges await discovery. For Eastern Carver County schools, a couple of leaders in key positions will begin their first full years in their posts.
Clint Christopher was named superintendent of Eastern Carver County schools in January of this year—he formally took over the job in July. He’d previously been associate superintendent and comes to his new job at a time of change in the county. The district serves Carver, Chanhassen, Chaska and Victoria and has about 9,500 students and includes eight elementary schools (Carver Elementary School opens this fall); three middle schools; Chanhassen and Chaska high schools and the Integrated Arts Academy. An early childhood center will also be opening at the site of the former kindergarten center.
Christopher looks forward to “hitting the ground running” this fall. In addition to coming from a family of educators, he can draw from his solid career experience. He taught elementary school for several years and was an elementary school principal. Christopher came to the Eastern Carver district in 2014 from Illinois to become an associate superintendent.
While he has responsibility for a large and growing school district with a lot of moving parts, Christopher considers each student’s individual success to be a priority. “We can meet the needs of all kids,” he says. “We want to make sure that all students are achieving their personal best.”
That’s a philosophy that has institutional weight in the school district. Eastern Carver County schools have a commitment to personalized learning, a philosophy of active learning in which students take a role in finding out how they learn best. Each student can progress at his or her own pace, and there are as many ways to learn as there are kids in the classroom. A student who has shown mastery of a subject can move on to the next level and engage more deeply with elements of that subject that he or she finds more interesting. Students are encouraged to make connections across subjects and work collaboratively.
Dick Ungar was formally named Chanhassen High School principal in April, after stepping in earlier in the year as acting principal after the then-principal was relieved of his duties due to criminal allegations. Ungar wants to use a sense of collaboration and community to encourage the Chanhassen High School community to remain focused on its strengths, and he’s well versed in the district’s culture, given his previous work experience. He has been part of the Eastern Carver County school system since 1993 when he started as a middle school art teacher. Later, he was an assistant principal and an athletic director before serving as interim principal in December 2016. In his permanent role, Ungar says that one of his first priorities is to assist the school in maintaining its footing. “I want to remind teachers that they have been doing a great job,” he says.
To that end, Ungar has embraced the slogan “We are Chan,” and it has become a touchstone to remind students, teachers and staff that the school has a lot of which it can be proud. “I want to give the kids a reason to come to school. It has to be more than just going to class,” he says. Ungar believes that a sense of community pride encourages students to work harder and stay engaged.