Familiar face becomes principal at Oak-Land

Educators excited about teaching and students eager to take it all in have Derek Berg looking forward to becoming Oak-Land Junior High’s new principal.

Berg, 33, is well known to students and teachers at the junior high, where he has been the assistant principal for a year. He officially begins his new duties July 1, following the retirement of Tom LeCloux, who has been the school’s principal for nearly 20 years.

While Berg worked with LeCloux for just one year, he said he was able to learn a lot from the veteran educator. "There’s a lot of years and a lot of wisdom that he possesses," he said. "You can’t help but learn new things when you surround yourself with people like that."

Based on the recommendation of incoming Superintendent Keith Ryskoski, the Stillwater School District School Board approved Berg’s promotion June 9.

"I think Derek has certainly benefited from spending time at Oak-Land," Ryskoski said. "He brings people skills and the ability to involve others in solving problems. This is an area of the district that is primed for growth, and he will be able to reflect on his experiences to move that forward."

Prior to becoming Oak-Land’s assistant principal, Berg spent six years as an elementary school teacher at Deerwood Elementary School in Eagan. He then served as a principal in outstate Minnesota at Barnum Elementary School.

Berg earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Bethel College. He also completed an administrative licensure program at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

He said the learning environment at Oak-Land attracted him to the position of principal.

"It’s a building full of high-achieving students with exceptional teachers," he said. "To me, that’s very attractive in stepping into this position."

LeCloux said he considers himself one of Berg’s biggest advocates and believes the transition will be smooth for teachers, students and parents.

"He is very people-oriented," LeCloux said. "Education is a people business, and that has to be your biggest priority."

Berg said his initial goals as principal will be to continue the school’s technology and anti-bully initiatives, which were both developed under LeCloux’s leadership.

Oak-Land is one of few schools in Minnesota that provides all of its students with an Apple laptop computer to enhance the learning experience.

The school’s anti-bullying initiative has been designed to help eliminate any bullying that occurs at the school by providing victims and offenders with information on what bullying is and how to overcome it.

"It’s not that we have a huge problem, but we just want a meaningful initiative to counteract the bullying that is taking place," LeCloux said.

Berg said the school will also continue to collect student data to determine how subjects should be taught to meet the instructional ability of each student.

"Having been an elementary principal for three years and working at Oak-Land Junior High as an assistant principal has given me insights and valuable experiences in working with a wide variety of students," Berg said. "I look forward to continuing our work with the students, parents, teachers and the Oak-Land community."

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