By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN - Straight out of college, retiring Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Supt. George Ladd began a long and interesting career that even included teaching his siblings.
He is the oldest of 10 children, so when he began his first teaching job at St. Mary’s in Sleepy Eye, the school from which he graduated, he actually taught some of his siblings.
What’s even more interesting, and perhaps amusing, is the fact that he flunked one of his younger brothers who was in the seventh grade.
“I had a brother in junior high who thought that since he was my brother, that he didn’t have to work as hard,” Ladd said.
“I even had teacher conferences with my mom sitting across the desk from me,” he laughed.
Ladd taught at St. Mary’s for two years and then moved to a teaching position at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault for another couple of years where he also was the head football, head girls basketball, and head baseball coach.
After another couple of years, Ladd moved on to Rockford High School where he taught and coached, and moved up the ranks for 21 years.
Coaching has been a love of Ladd’s since the very beginning of his career. In fact, as a freshman in college, he began assistant coaching American Legion ball and T-ball, which continued at Sleepy Eye and Rockford.
During his career in Rockford, Ladd began as a social teacher, was also the athletic director, was the community education and recreation director at one point, and then moved into an assistant principal position.
“I did a lot of coaching,” while at Rockford, Ladd said.
During different periods he was the head football coach, head baseball, and head softball coach.
“One year, I was even the head gymnastics coach,” Ladd laughed. Although, he admits he hired someone to coach the intricacies of the sport.
From Rockford, Ladd headed to Minnetonka as he accepted an assistant principal position.
“I wanted to get the ‘big school’ experience. One of my goals was to get into a ‘classic lake conference’ school,” Ladd said.
He stayed in Minnetonka for two years and immensely enjoyed being the activities and athletics director for grades six through 12, which included the fine arts program.
“It was a wonderful experience,” he said.
From Minnetonka, Ladd spent one year in Glencoe as the high school principal before going to McLeod West for two years when the superintendent job was offered to him.
Then in 2002, Ladd came to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted upon accepting the superintendent position.
“At every school, there are such fond memories. The great people, community members, teachers and staff, and students. I have great memories of all of those people some of those people appeared last night as various pieces of my past came to wish me well,” Ladd said in reference to the retirement party that took place at the high school Wednesday.
During that party, several members of the school community told the Herald Journal their thoughts about the retiring superintendent.
“He’s done a wonderful job, especially what he did with all these bond issues,” said HLWW maintenance and grounds keeper Romey Decker of Ladd.
“He’s a very likable person,” Decker’s wife Berneal added.
An unnamed former employee said she, “really appreciated the quiet and the calm that he provided when she approached him with problems, needs, or concerns.”
HLWW pre-school teacher Pam Henry-Neaton said, “He’s an all around good guy. He’s been supportive both in and out of school.”
HLWW Elementary Principal Jen Olson said, “He’s a ‘for the kids’ kind of guy. He’s humble and a wonderful person. He provides guidance when it’s needed. He supports and backs us when the pressure is on, and has been a great mentor for me.”
Community member Kent Houston said, “I think the district will miss his involvement, but I think Brad Sellner will fill his shoes well.”
HLWW School Board Member Lori Custer said that she has served with Ladd for five years on the school board, and always remembers him telling the principals to hire the best and the brightest.
“I think with George,” Custer said, “we always had the best and the brightest.”
HLWW high school custodian Dan Belland said, “He’s been really good for us. He’s been pretty forthright in getting equipment and specialty supplies that we need, and getting issues resolved in a hurry.”
“I felt he was a good superintendent,” HLWW janitor Dean Cloose added.
Ladd said he greatly appreciates all of those who have wished him well, sent cards, given him gifts, and shaken his hand as he retires.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful community,” Ladd said. “We’ve shared great times, as well as tragedies.”
“The people within the 114-square-miles of this school district have been absolutely wonderful to work for. They have treated me with respect and dignity, and I hope the school continues to have great success,” Ladd said.
One sadness he feels is being out of the coaching arena.
“I would have loved to continue to coach as I went through this education ladder,” Ladd said.
He particularly enjoyed observing an athlete’s success from the start of a season and how it progressed to the end of the season, as well as the successes of individuals from the start of their freshman year to the end of their senior year.
“I always liked being a part of that. It was always exciting, and it keeps you young,” he said.
Reflecting on his career at HLWW, Ladd said his greatest accomplishment may be yet to be determined.
“I’ve only been successful if what I’ve done continues to grow and nurture,” Ladd explained.
“I’ve always preached,” he added, “that if you hire the right people, then they make you look good, and then they make good choices. If you make good hires, it’s good for the school and the students. You find those people who will leave a lasting, positive legacy.”
Even though Ladd is retiring from his educational career, he will seek some kind of part-time work, “to keep me busy,” he said.
“I want to change gears so I’m home a little more, and have less stress,” Ladd said.
“I’m one of the luckiest people in education,” he added. “Because I’ve had great opportunities, and people don’t often have careers like I have, but it’s because of the people who allowed me to serve, and I appreciate that.”