KELLIHER -- Despite the strange circumstances, Paul Grams is happy to put his years of education administration experience to work as the new superintendent of Kelliher Public Schools. He will be at the helm as Kelliher navigates in-person learning in the age of COVID-19.

Grams comes to Kelliher from McGregor School in McGregor, Minn. where he served as a principal and superintendent for 21 years. He began his new role on July 1.

Originally from Little Falls, Minn. Grams was 11th in a family of 12 children. He attended St. Cloud State University while he was a member of the Minnesota Army National Guard.

After beginning his education career teaching math in Benson, Minn., and later moved to McGregor where he became the elementary principal and superintendent.

Grams enjoys being in a smaller school district because it fosters a community-minded attitude between families, teachers and administrators.

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“If it’s a smaller district, I can get to know the parents, the students, community members, board, teachers and get to personally know everybody. I enjoy that aspect,” he said. “That’s what really led me here.”

He said getting to know staff members has been particularly difficult, because he has to learn 150 new names, and everyone is wearing masks so it’s even harder to remember faces.

“That has been the hardest part about meeting new people here,” he said. “I’ve been very surprised at what a receptive community it is.”

His goals in his new position are to fully develop his leadership style and bring new ideas to the district.

“Coming to Kelliher, my personal goal is I want to see what I can bring to this community, what I can bring to this school,” he said. “I’m doing it at a time where I feel I’ve reached a real good peak in my career for experience and knowledge and also determination and motivation.

“Personally, I want to see what can happen when I come to a district with experience and with knowledge of how I’ve led in the past, whereas I’ve never had that advantage when I first went into administration,” he added.

Grams said McGregor is about 30% larger than Kelliher in terms of student and staff population.

“But the two communities have many things in common,” he said.

Challenges

Kelliher, like most schools nationwide, will face a number of unprecedented challenges this year in the face of COVID-19.

“Recruiting staff is becoming a challenge, dealing with COVID is going to be an enormous challenge,” Grams said.

He said administrators and teachers will have to work with an irregular, constantly changing environment. It will also be a challenge to provide equitable education for students in-school and students doing distance learning, he explained.

Grams said he has been impressed and surprised at how Kelliher approaches each decision they face.

“Every decision they make, the first thing they tell you right away, if we’re making this decision we’re making it for students, we are making it for the kids, we are making it for parents and staff,” he said. “If it’s good for education and good for kids, then you’ve already justified the decision. If you keep that view moving forward, the school’s going to be in a good place for a very long time.”