Mounds View High School principal Jeff Ridlehoover was named 2017 Principal of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals. The association is part of a national secondary school association that connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. The annual Principal of the Year award honors principals that have contributed to providing high-quality learning opportunities for students and have demonstrated exemplary contributions to the field of education.
The Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals divides the state into eight divisions based on location. Ridlehoover was nominated by peers last winter for the Capitol division Principal of the Year award and won the division title in spring 2016. Division winners are then eligible for the statewide Principal of the Year award.
Ridlehoover found out that he was the statewide award winner at the MASSP Winter Conference on Jan. 18. Ridlehoover said he felt surprised, honored and very humbled.
“There were so many wonderful educators and principals, many folks that I know and respect, that were nominated. And for me to be selected for an award like this, it’s pretty humbling,” he said.
MASSP Executive Director Dave Adney said Ridlehoover exemplifies good leadership, innovation, and commitment to research, among many other positive qualities.
“Emerging research is very important, and Jeff is still very much a student of the game,” Adney said.
An innovation piece that Adney pointed out was Mounds View High School’s media center and that it is no longer just a library. “We really like to find what principals are doing that is new and different,” he said. “Jeff is just a wonderful example of good leadership and really caring about the students.”
Ridlehoover first began his career as a chemistry teacher, teaching in both Lakeville and Anoka-Hennepin school districts. He then moved into administration and spent ten years as an assistant principal, with nine of them at Wayzata High School.
The opportunity to become principal at Mounds View High School was an offer he could not refuse.
“When I learned more about the district, the community, and the families, I was hooked,” Ridlehoover said. “That’s why I jumped in with both feet.”
Care and communication
Communication is key when it comes to the strengths of an effective leader. As communication is a two way process, Ridlehoover stressed the importance of being a good listener and truly values the input of stakeholders.
Ridlehoover also strongly values the relationships among school administration, staff, families and students. The school and community went through a tragic time in early December when a car accident took the lives of two students and hospitalized another. Through signs of solidarity, kind words, and an enormous amount of support, Ridlehoover and the school are grateful for the continuos care and support that has been exemplified by the community.
As the leader of the school, Ridlehoover became the face of the communication process, although, he stressed that he absolutely did not do it alone.
“There were many people working with me to get through this,” he said. “I think it’s just being compassionate, caring, transparent, and letting others help when help is offered and providing support for those that need it,” Ridlehoover said.
“The big thing for us is that we were able to reach out to the families of the young ladies that passed away, as well as young lady that has survived, and established nice rapport there so they know that we are here for them.”
Although the healing process is never easy, Ridlehoover said that it helps to have wonderful people around and a caring community.
Strong school culture
Principals play an active role in building a strong sense of school community and culture.
As one of the premier school districts in the state, Ridlehoover prides Mounds View as being very collaborative, as well as holding a strong focus on creativity and innovation.
“We’ve done a lot to really build on what students need in the world right now, like needing to solve problems, think critically, work with other people, work in teams,” he said.
As with any success story, there’s always a need to look ahead to the future.
“We’re always looking to continuously improve,” Ridlehoover said. “We don’t like to stay status quo if we know that there is room for improvement.”
Finding it hard to pinpoint just one favorite thing about being principal at Mounds View High, Ridlehoover said he is thankful for the entire learning community.
“I’m really fortunate. I get to work with a great school board, an amazing superintendent, and the teachers and the families and the kids. We’ve got a good thing going, and we don’t take it for granite, there’s a lot of positives.”
Ridlehoover is now eligible to represent Minnesota at the Principal’s Institute in Washington D.C., as well as being a contender for the National Principal of the Year award.
Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]