REDMOND — Audrey Haugan was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. She spent over three decades serving as a teacher and school administrator in the same region. When she retired in 2018, she stayed in the area.

But when her brother-in-law, who lives in Redmond, told her that Redmond High School was seeking a new principal, Haugan, 55, decided to leave Illinois for Central Oregon. Her three adult children had left the home, so moving halfway across the country became easier.

“My husband and I said, ‘Let’s go on an adventure,’” she said.

Haugan began her new journey at Redmond High on July 1. She said she will try to bring consistent leadership to a school that spent all of last school year without a principal after the previous principal, Paul Nolan, abruptly left in June 2018. In Nolan’s absence, assistant principals Jason Chatterton and Sarah Peterson along with Traci Renwick, Redmond School District’s human resources director, led Redmond High.

“I think there will be some relief on their part,” Haugan said of the trio. “I think I can help by taking some things off their plate (and) getting the school focused.”

Redmond School District Superintendent Mike McIntosh agreed. Although Chatterton, Peterson and Renwick performed capably last year, Haugan will be able to “restablize the leadership” at Redmond High, he said.

“What Audrey brings is a huge sense of stability,” McIntosh said. “She’s already demonstrated her competence and confidence and comes to us with incredible amounts of experience.”

Haugan spent the first eight years of her career as an English teacher — first at a Catholic private school for two years and later at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Illinois.

She spent much of her career at Maine West, a school of 2,200 students, serving as the school’s English department chair for three years, its assistant principal of curriculum and instruction for five years and then its principal for 13 years.

In the middle of that run, Haugan also was the assistant superintendent of curriculum in a different Chicago-area school district.

After the 2017-18 school year, Haugan retired as Maine East’s principal.

From the age of 5, Haugan said she knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“My game of choice was making my brother and sisters play school with me, and I was always in charge,” she said.

After creating her own course at Maine East while teaching, Haugan said she became fascinated with building curriculum, leading to her career path in school administration.

Haugan was also an adjunct professor at Roosevelt and Concordia universities in the Chicago area, leading classes on school administration. She said she has no plans for teaching similar classes in Central Oregon.

“If there’s the opportunity out here, I’d love to do that, but first, I’d really like to focus on Redmond High School,” she said.

Haugan said she will earn $125,000 as Redmond High’s principal. During her final year at Maine West, Haugan earned $162,856, according to the Chicago Tribune.

One of Haugan’s priorities at Redmond High will be to improve student attendance. In the 2017-18 school year, 33.2% of the school’s students were chronically absent, according to the Oregon Department of Education, meaning they missed 10% or more of their school days.

Redmond High also had the lowest graduation rate among Central Oregon high schools in 2017-18, and Haugan said she believes improving attendance can help more students earn diplomas. She said it’s critical to identify exactly which students are missing class and finding solutions that will bring them back into school.

Haugan said she’ll also emphasize extracurricular activities. In Illinois, she had an expectation that every student would participate in at least two clubs, activities or sports, she said.

“I think kids who get involved have more fun at school, and they want to come to school, and their test scores (rise) with that,” she said.

McIntosh, the district superintendent, said one reason Haugan was chosen was due to her ease in working with students. When Haugan met with local kids during the interview process, it went very well, McIntosh said.

“She inspired them, and she was comfortable with them,” he said. “That group of students came to me and said, ‘She’s our first pick.’”

Haugan said she’s enjoying her new home so far, and particularly enjoys observing nature during her daily morning walks.

“What I see on my walk is so different than what I would see in Chicago,” she said. “Here, I can see alpacas and mules and horses and cows all on a 3-mile journey, and at home, I would see industry or houses.”

She also joked that compared to humid Midwest summers, the dry heat of Central Oregon is much more tolerable.

Haugan said that she’s ready for the challenge of leading the 1,024 students of Redmond High.

“I’m really looking forward to making a difference and seeing how I can make a difference here, as well as supporting our awesome staff,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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