For Tiger Elementary's first principal, the core of education is "relationships."

"Kids don't want to learn from us until they know we care about them," said Michael Daugs. "In a classroom setting, we start developing a relationship where students know we care about them and are working hard for them."

The Central Public Schools elementary principal will join Hutchinson Public Schools starting in the 2021-22 school year, first as the second and third grades principal at Park Elementary, and then carrying over to the new Tiger Elementary addition beside West Elementary.

The restructuring will have one principal in charge of the district's youngest learners in West Elementary, Daugs in charge of second and third grades at Tiger Elementary, and another for fourth and fifth grades at Park Elementary. No new administrator positions were added for the transition, but the prior Park Elementary assistant principal position will be traded for the Tiger Elementary principal position.

"As a principal, the audience grows," Daugs said. "The teachers have to know and the community has to know you're there for them and you care about them. It has to be a strong relationship."

Today, Daugs has a passion for teaching, but when he first started pursuing higher education he hadn't realized it. He started studying for biochemistry at Southwest Minnesota State University in the early 2000s.

"My freshman year I met a wonderful woman who would later become my wife. During my sophomore year she saw me working my tail off and I was miserable," Daugs said. "She advised me to try other options."

They looked at his interests. He coached youth wrestling and taught youth group at church. The common denominator they found was he was teaching all the time for fun, so Daugs tried an education course.

"I very quickly realized that was my calling. I was supposed to be an educator," he said.

He finish his time at SMSU with a degree in education before teaching fifth grade at Elk River for nine years. He earned his master's degree in 2008 and went on to obtain his principal licensure in 2010. An administrator challenged him to explore a career change, which led him to serve as a Moorehead assistant principal for a year, and then eight years at Central Public Schools in Norwood Young America.

When restructuring at Central Public Schools led Daugs to seek employment, Hutchinson caught his attention.

"Hutchinson is one of our home bases," he said. "We live out in the country and do a lot in Hutchinson, go out to eat ... shopping. Hutchinson has always been a great community that I've been interested in as a possibility."

Both he and his wife have taken part in classes for staff development in Hutchinson.

"We've always been really impressed by the structure, the support to the teachers and staff development," Daugs said, "in addition to the pride Hutchinson has as a community."

During the hiring process, what stood out to Michael Scott, Hutchinson's director of teaching and learning, was Daugs' elementary experience as a teacher and principal, and his focus on staff input.

"He has a very good listening ear," Scott said. 

As the 2021-22 school year starts, Daugs and Park Elementary principal Dan Olberg will work as a team, but try to organize Park Elementary as though it was two buildings, with Daugs in charge of second and third grades, and Olberg leading fourth and fifth grades. That way when second and third grades move to Tiger Elementary in November, as is currently the plan, everyone should be organized.

“First and foremost we’ll be working to create a student and staff climate," Daugs said, "and trying to create a place where when people step through the door they feel the warmth, where they know we love kids and kids grow."