Nick Prepasky, the incoming Director and Special Education instructor at Northern Lights Community School, has some really big shoes to fill…

By Nathan Bergstedt Herald-Review

Dave Hagman in the hallways of Northern Lights Community School in Warba, the project-based learning charter school he co-founded eight years ago along with Karen Fleming. During this time Hagman has served as Director, as well as filling other positions in the school. Photo by John Connelly

Dave Hagman is 60 years old. Dave Hagman is a teacher. Dave Hagman is the co-founder of Northern Lights Community School in Warba. Dave Hagman is retiring.

A highly involved community figure, Hagman surprised many with his announcement of retirement. It seems out of the blue because the school is in its eighth year and is continuing to progress, and he serves several different positions there. But he said that when he tells people that he’s been in the education game for 36 years, “that usually stops people.”

There’s a few reasons, though. His wife, Sally Irvine Hagman, retired a year ago, and so the timing is right in order to pursue the vast range of activities that they enjoy doing together, such as travel and other recreations.

Northern Lights Community School (NLCS) has been Hagman’s big project for just shy of a decade. He serves as Director of the school (a position similar to a principal), and is also the school’s Special Education teacher. And this past year, he took on the role of athletic director as well, coordinating the school’s track team and archery team. But the busy schedule is part and parcel of the decision to move on: as an example, considering how long he’s been an educator, Hagman said that he looks forward to doing something on a Wednesday in the fall.

“A couple of friends who are retired have said to me, ‘You really don’t have an understanding of all the opportunities there are outside of school, because you’ve never been outside of school,’” said Hagman when considering his plans once he’s done with the summer session on Aug. 1.

Not surprisingly, some of these plans still involve NLCS. Though ready for retirement, Hagman still isn’t ready to hang up his education spurs just yet. The biggest difference for him will be the creation of a new schedule, one that isn’t set by the rising and lowering of the school year tide. For the past three and a half decades, as soon as classes began, he was on call until they were over. But given the wide breadth of things Hagman looks forward to doing, in addition to teaching and being professionally involved, taking himself out of that schedule seems an obvious choice. On that vague Wednesday this fall, he looks forward to having the option of reading a book or going for a bike ride, but still plans on making himself as available as possible to the school to do what is needed, from teaching to mopping the floors of the hall.

But this is a predicated on whether or not he’s in town. Plans are already in the works for some serious travel, such as trips to Turkey and to England to visit friends.

NLCS is currently working on the transition for Hagman’s replacement. Nick Prepasky, who is moving to Itasca County from La Crosse, Wis., will be taking over as Director and Special Education instructor at the school. Noting how Prepasky helped to create a project-based charter school in La Crosse, Hagman commended the hiring team at Northern Lights for their pick, saying that Prepasky is “a great fit.”

“I feel like the timing is good. I still love working here. I look forward to coming to work every day. And I think that’s a good note to go out on,” said Hagman.

He added about the transition of leadership, “I feel like we’ve worked really hard, but I think that it could use some fresh eyes and some fresh skills. From what I know, Nick has some of those.”

Looking back over his time at Norther Lights, Hagman said he feels thankful for the time teaching and for the institution the school became. To that end, he also said that he thanks his wife, Sally, for her love and support as the school got underway, and for the continuing efforts of the students, as well as their courage to come to a new school where they do things a little differently.