Interim North principal picked

It looks like the “Gene Janicke Retirement Revocation Project” is at work again.

Shortly after announcing he was retiring from the St. Paul Schools to enjoy his free time and write a book, Janicke signed on to be District 622’s director of teaching and learning.

And, immediately after hearing North Principal Randy Zipf was retiring, Janicke set in motion plans to draft a friend of his: Bill Dunn, newly retired principal of St. Paul’s Arlington High School.

Dunn doesn’t sound like he’s too sad to be named interim principal at North, to take the position for however long it takes the district to find a permanent replacement. “You know, by contract I always had July off, so this is my normal July. The only thing different will be I’m not going back to St. Paul but to North St. Paul in August.”

Dunn is a St. Paul product through and through, having grown up in Frogtown and lived in St. Paul all his life.

However, Dunn didn’t go to St. Paul schools himself. “I’m actually a parochial school lad,” he says. “I went to St. Columbus and St. Agnes. ... I know a lot of people in North St. Paul that are ‘Aggies,’ though. Aggies stick together.”

Since then, Dunn has had a 37-year career in St. Paul schools, beginning as a math teacher at Cleveland Junior High School on the East Side, where Janicke was also a teacher at the time.

Both men worked their way up through administrative posts and assistant principalships, and Dunn served as principal at Ramsey Junior High School, Central High School, Highland Park Junior and Senior High School and Battle Creek Middle School.

Asked about the change from teaching to administration, Dunn says, “I always joke with people that kids are easy — it’s the adults who sometimes challenge you. By that, I mean the challenge comes with helping adults be successful with the kids, in teaching adults to be more effective teachers.”

In his last post with St. Paul, Dunn led the design and opening of the new Arlington High School on Rice Street. “I’m the principal who built Arlington just like Randy built North,” he says. “There were a select few of us around the state at the time — about a half dozen or 8 principals who were building big schools, and we actually got together and talked about the process. We learned from one another and gave each other support, and it really helped.”

Since then, on occasional trips to visit Zipf, Dunn says, “I’ve walked into North a couple times and thought, ‘That was my idea!’ And I’m sure he’s thought the same thing about Arlington.”

According to Janicke, both Zipf and Joe Wemette, whom Janicke replaced, mentioned Dunn as a good interim prospect. “We wanted to focus on getting the right (permanent) person and taking the time to do that rather than being urgent about getting ‘whoever,’” Janicke says. “Knowing somebody like Bill Dunn could parachute in and hit the ground running and could give us the time to do what we needed to do made it an easy choice. Bill said six weeks or six months would be fine — he’s flexible.”

“He’s just a solid professional,” Janicke adds of Dunn. “He’s consistent, recognizes the need to make sure all stakeholders are involved, engaged, visible. He’s a ‘kid person’ too — he really enjoys students in all aspects — whether it’s academics, athletics or arts.”

Dunn was the Minnesota Principal of the Year in 2003, nominated by his peers, the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals. “It’s an award you get that should probably go to your secretary,” Dunn says of the staff member most principals lean on for organization.

Basically, with Dunn’s experience, “the district does not need to worry about day-to-day running of the program at North while they’re in the process of finding a great replacement,” Janicke says.

Janicke will lead the process of finding a new principal; he is currently deciding the composition of a search committee, which will include members of the community, students, parents and district teachers, administrators and staff. Zipf is still at North and expected to work until sometime in late July.

Dunn says his main responsibilities are twofold: to help the students and teachers at North start the school year and to help Janicke and superintendent Patty Phillips, both brand-new to their positions, get a good start. “One certainly supports the other, but the business is helping that staff and the kids get off to a good school year.”

He doesn’t anticipate many unforeseen challenges at North other than adjusting to new faces and policies. “It’s a great school and I know Randy’s done a great job with it. Plus, I’ve talked to him over the years and he’s had nothing but praise for his administrative staff and the staff at the building,” Dunn says. “I would suspect Randy has things in pretty good order. I wouldn’t think he has too many things sitting around that aren’t tied up real tightly.”

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