District 192 Superintendent Jay Haugen will be a contender for the National Superintendent of the Year as he was awarded 2019 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year.

Humbled to receive the honor, Haugen was surprised to win since he said it was a longshot competing against 300 other superintendents across the state.

Minnesota Association of School Administrators announced Haugen won the Minnesota award. His name will be in the running for the national honor announced at the American Association of School Administrators convention Feb. 14-16, 2019, in Los Angeles. He will compete against superintendents from across the nation.

"I love being part of something that makes our world and our slice of the world better," Haugen said. "And that elevates the work of the district and our community and the work of our students."

Touting how he thrives when he can lead a school district where teachers feel more valued for their input and work, Haugen said he likes to work at "Creating a system where staff and students have the natural agency to advocate for themselves and work to learn and teach in a way that is best for them."

Chosen by a panel of representatives from many Minnesota educational organizations, each nominee is evaluated on benchmarks of leadership for learning, communication skills, professionalism and community involvement.

"During his time at Farmington Area Public Schools, Jay has become an inspiration within his community through his extraordinary leadership and community outreach practices," Gary Amoroso, executive director of Minnesota Association of School Administrators, said. "Jay is a leader in education innovation within Minnesota and the nation, and I am very eager to see the continued transformations that Jay has in store for his district."

"In a nutshell, I like the fact I get to do things that give other people agency and they can do their best work, and that is a way I am fortunate that this is part of my work," Haugen said. "We believe that what we are doing in Farmington is where education has to go."

During his tenure, he has led the pathway with a new strategic plan that has guided the staff and school board to offering a more student-centered approach to learning. The district's mission has been to inspire students to feel empowered to take responsibility and take charge of their own personal learning. This journey can help them find their own career pathway or discover their own personal spark that could unlock a future career field.

When asked about how he approaches the hard aspects of his job, Haugen offered some insight and reflection.

"The hard things are the deeply personal things when people are in conflict, and you are helping them," Haugen said. "That there is strong emotions and hard feelings, and people are not listening to each other - those are always the hard ones to make a difficult decision about a student or staff member."

Haugen said another hard aspect to his job is when rumors or untruths are circulating in the community. He cannot address the issues as a school district. If someone is mean to another, he cannot say anything in those situations because it is private information.

With no plans on retiring, Haugen said when he does step away, he may decide to work within the educational field.

"It is still so much fun and every year our staff do more and more - they are an amazing staff who are busy planning for next year already, and I look forward to all the great things and great works going on with staff in Farmington this year," Haugen said.

"Jay has a strong vision and strong commitment to the idea of customized learning that allows people to use their strengths, and passions and things that lead them to their spark and tapping into those things," Jason Berg, executive director of educational services for Farmington Public Schools, said.

Leading the School District 192 for eight years, Haugen carries 23 years of working as a Minnesota superintendent. Prior to leading Farmington, he served as a superintendent of West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools. He led the school district for Sleepy Eye Public Schools. Haugen worked as a high school science teacher and took graduate studies in the development of educational software. He worked as a director of curriculum and staff development for school districts near Redwood Falls and as regional coordinator for Minnesota Department of Education's Minnesota Educational Effectiveness Program.

During his tenure, the school district and city rebounded from litigation surrounding the location of the high school. He holds membership within various community organizations, including the Farmington Rotary Club, the Lions Club, Farmington Business Association and Dakota County Chamber of Commerce.

"His greatest strength is he has set a framework that allows people to tap into those things and they do not feel tapped down," Berg added. "Jay is a really caring person and when you talk to Jay and he visits the classroom, he is a really caring person and that person who can see what a school is or has been and what it can be."

Haugen allows his staff and teachers to trust so they can move forward with a growth mindset, Berg said.

"Jay has given us the ability to do stuff and start to transform things to make them better and other districts may walk away and say I cannot do that," Berg added.