For most educators, summer is a time to catch their breath, brush up on their own educations and prepare for the following school year. For brand new Milaca High School Principal Damian Patnode, the three-month break seemed to go much faster this year.
“My summer got a lot shorter, but that’s OK,” Patnode said of his new position.
After former principal Troy Anderson left early this summer for the same seat at Pine City High School, the then assistant high school principal Patnode was named as his replacement. Patnode has also been the director of Milaca Community Education and will continue in his dual leadership roles for now.
“There’s been a little bit of discussion on how we’re going to do this,” he said. “For the time-being, I’m still going to do this (Community Ed.), but I’m hoping it will be short-term. I’m really hoping that I can focus solely on this job.”
Although Patnode was able to juggle both the director’s role with the assistant principal’s duties, he said both the high school and the community programs would benefit from leaders who could give 100 percent of their attention and time to the position.
“And I wouldn’t have ever been able to do both without the people in Community Ed,” Patnode said. “Jerry Westphal has been a big help as well.”
As a 1995 Milaca graduate, Patnode said being familiar with the district and area has been extremely helpful.
“I think growing up here is a great advantage,” he said. “You know the system and you know the community. I think it’s a huge plus.”
Patnode lives with his wife, Jody, and their children Jack, 5, Ty, 2 and infant daughter Ava, just south of Pease.
His commitment to community also has Patnode actively involved in promoting local efforts such as the Milaca Fine Arts Council and the newly minted Rum River Community Foundation.
“It’s not because I feel that I have to,” Patnode said. “It’s because I’m genuinely excited about those opportunities for the people in the community.”
Achieving the high school principal post in his hometown is also a life-long goal of his.
“Yeah, it was on the bucket list,” Patnode said laughing.
For the full story, see the Thursday, Aug. 2 print edition of the Times.