Somerset Elementary principal Darren Kern knows it will be hard to leave the school district on June 30 after seven years, but he is looking forward to his next academic adventure -- and a shorter commute.

Kern will begin his new position as the principal of Independence Elementary School in Big Lake, Minn., on July 1. Big Lake, which is west of Elk River, Minn., and northwest of Minneapolis, is about 35 minutes from Kern’s home. His commute to Somerset has been over an hour each way.

Kern said he spent most of his academic career in Minnesota and was looking to go back.

“I wasn’t looking to go just anywhere,” Kern said. “I was pretty picky and choosy about where I wanted to go.”

According to Kern, who was Somerset Elementary’s principal for two years and the district’s Pupil Services director for five years before that, the Big Lake Public School District is roughly three times the size of Somerset. Independence Elementary is K-5.

“It just seems like the right fit,” Kern said of going to Big Lake. “But I will miss Somerset. It’s a very good place. But I’m excited to go to another outstanding school district.”

He cited excellent reading and math initiatives, high teacher performance and a strong community commitment to education -- similar to Somerset -- as perks that drew him to Big Lake.

Kern said he has enjoyed “the great kids and sense of community” in Somerset. He is also proud of the progress the district has made with the state’s educational initiatives.

“We’ve accomplished some really cool things with student achievement,” Kern said of his tenure in Somerset. “We have bolstered support programs, and believe all kids can learn at a high level.”

Kern said his most fond memories of Somerset are the weekly perfect attendance lunches with each grade.

“Those were really a treat,” Kern said. “Those are the memories that are going to last the longest.”

Kern said his family -- which includes wife  Diane, son Alex and daughter Lauren -- is a big soccer family. He has coached his daughter’s soccer team. He also enjoys “fishing for everything,” especially walleyes and crappies.

Before Kern came to Somerset, he was a special education supervisor and principal in the west metro for school district 287.

According to District Administrator Randy Rosburg, applications for the open elementary principal position will be accepted until Friday, June 20.

“Paperwork will be screened the first part of the week of June 23,” Rosburg said. “Interviews are tentatively schedule to occur on Monday, June 30. Interview teams will consist of two board members, two additional administrators, four to six teachers from the elementary school, two support staff members and two parents.”