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Perham School District announces two new principals

The Perham-Dent Public School District announced the new principals of Heart of the Lakes Elementary and Prairie Wind Middle School at the school board meeting on the evening of Wednesday, June 8.

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Mike Kunza, the new Heart of the Lakes principal, and Jim Kennedy, the new Prairie Wind Middle School principal, stand together at the recent school board meeting.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — Some new yet familiar faces will be seen in the principal's office at Heart of the Lakes Elementary and Prairie Wind Middle School during the 2022–23 school year.

Starting this summer, Jim Kennedy will be the new Prairie Wind Middle School principal, and Mike Kunza will be the new Heart of the Lakes Elementary principal. Both attended the school board meeting on the evening of Wednesday, June 8, where their contracts were approved by the board.

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Jim Kennedy, the new Prairie Wind Middle School principal
Contributed / Perham Public Schools

“I’m still in disbelief a little bit, but I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to be the leader of that building,” Kennedy said in a news release from the school district. “I’m eager to get started. I know I have some ins and outs that I have to work through, and there is a lot of orientation that will need to take place, but I’m very excited.”

Community members may recognize Kennedy, as he moved to Perham in the 2000s to teach physical education. He worked in that position for about six years before becoming student success coordinator at Perham High School and then the dean of students.

He expressed his gratitude for his new position at the school board meeting.

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Mike Kunza, the new principal at Heart of the Lakes Elementary
Contributed / Perham Public Schools

Community members may also recognize Mike Kunza, who was born and raised in Perham. He spent about 16 years teaching at St. Paul's before becoming that building's principal. Afterward, he moved to teach at Heart of the Lakes and later became the dean of students.

“For every kid that’s in the school, we want to provide the best education that we can,” Kunza said in a news release from the school district. ”We want to give everyone a sense of ownership in the school. We want people to know that we are student-centered, and everything we do is about our kids.”

At the board meeting, he expressed that having the opportunity to take on a leadership role has been more than humbling. This has been a surreal experience for him, and he's looking forward to it.

Also discussed at the meeting:

  • Previous middle school principal Scott Bjerke was reassigned to the dean of students position.
  • The kitchen remodel at Heart of the Lakes Elementary School is underway. The district hopes for it to be complete by the start of the 2022-23 school year. Construction on the Perham High School gym floor is also underway and will be complete soon.
  • Summer school started on June 6. Around 70 students are attending, and the goal for the summer is to recover at least 100 classes.
  • Enrollment landed at 1,525 students, which is 26 higher than the original projection for the school year.
  • While the school district originally didn't qualify to provide summer meals, a group of community members came together to sponsor the summer meal program. They will reimburse the school for the cost of food. Throughout June, the program will operate Monday through Thursday at Prairie Wind Middle school from noon to 1 p.m. Lunch must be eaten at the middle school. Plans for July and August are still underway.
  • The board approved a preliminary budget for the 2022–23 school year.
  • The next school board meeting will be Wednesday, July 13 at 5 p.m. in the Perham High School media center.
Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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