Kevin Ricke referred to the 1966 Beach Boys lyrics “I’m pickin’ up good vibrations,” and the 1991 Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch lyrics, “It’s such a good vibration,” to highlight his first impressions since joining the Badger School community. Needless to say, he’s feeling good vibes and looks to not only contribute to Badger’s recent successes, but also build relationships as the school’s new Superintendent-Principal.
At the Badger School Open House back on August 29, Ricke felt these “good vibes,” and noticed a welcoming, poised, and polite attitude from all ages of students– character that parents should be proud of and the school is proud of, Ricke said.
“I was really impressed… how many students actually, before I approached them, they approached me and they came up and introduced themselves. And I think that’s just a Badger thing,” Ricke said. “… They just went out of their way to make me feel welcome and they make eye contact in the hallways. They say ‘hello’ in the hallways. They actually generally ask, ‘How you doing,’ and things like that.”
Ricke began on as the new Principal-Superintendent on July 1, 2019, replacing Badger Superintendent Tom Jerome, who had served the Badger District as an administrator for the last nine years, but is now serving the Roseau School District as its new Superintendent. This may be Ricke’s first year in Badger, but it represents the start of his thirty-first academic year in the education field.
A 1985 Bagley High School graduate, Ricke earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics Education from Bemidji State University (Minn.) in 1989, doing his student teaching and coaching practicum at Wadena Schools (Minn.) in Spring 1989. He began his first job in the educational system as a K-12 Computer Coordinator, Math Teacher, and Athletic Coach at Preston-Fountain Schools in Preston, Minn.– what is now known as Fillmore County Central Schools– from 1989 to 1990.
He returned to Wadena as a Math Teacher and Athletic Coach for the Wadena-Deer Creek Schools, staying there from 1990 to 1999. In 1999, he earned a sixth year certificate and Master of Science Degree in Educational Administration and Leadership from St. Cloud State University (Minn.). From that point on, he began to take on administrative roles.
Asked how he perceives his role in a school as a Principal-Superintendent, Ricke said right away meeting the diverse needs of the students– to help them succeed and reach their goals.
“We are the stewards of their (students’) resources and making sure that we provide them the opportunities and open as many doors as possible for the students to be successful,” Ricke said. “So, it’s not about we as teachers, or we as administrators. What our success is, it’s about our students’ and their families’ goals to be successful.”
From 1999 to 2003, he officially began his administrative career by serving as an Assistant Principal at Pequot Lakes Schools (Minn.). He then worked as the Secondary Principal for the Lake Park-Audubon Schools in Lake Park, Minn., from 2003 to 2016. Before coming to the Badger School, he served the Fosston Schools (Minn.) as Superintendent from 2016 to 2019.
Ricke said the chance to serve the Badger School was intriguing to him for four reasons. First, he mentioned the “positive reputation of a dedicated vibrant educational team.” He then mentioned the strong school safety, highlighting how a majority of Badger students agreed strongly that they feel safe at school. Third, he was drawn to the school tradition of success, proven by it attracting “an increasing number” of students through open enrollment. Finally, he highlighted the desirable greater Minnesota location for outdoor enthusiasts.
Asked what he hopes to bring the Badger School District, Ricke first pointed how it was clear to him that based on the direction the Badger School went– to go with the full-time combined Superintendent-Principal role– that they wanted someone rooted in the community and here at the school five days a week. He and his wife of now 30 years– as of this past September– Carol, currently reside in Badger. They are the “proud” parents of two adult daughters, Autumn and Kaitlin.
Ricke understands that the Badger staff and community knows its school well.
“The reality is I need to listen and learn. Obviously there’s life-long community members, very experienced, high-functioning staff that they know the successes as well as the needs of, areas of enhancing in the community,” Ricke said. “So, asking good questions and listening is the initial responsibility and obviously that should be reflected in making good decisions moving forward.”
Feeling those positive vibes early on in Badger, Ricke now looks forward to building relationships and contributing in any way he can to the group efforts of this school– one that over the years has shown the ability to adapt, but yet still continue to meet the diverse needs of its students.
“I’m just impressed about how, here at Badger Schools, people just contribute where they’re able to or pick up gaps,” Ricke said. “I have not heard a Badger School employee say, ‘That’s not my job.’ I mean they just, we help each other out, and it’s a team effort.”
To see the full story, read the October 2 issue of The Tribune in print or online.