Ragland retires; Hoffman hired as new principal

By: 
Hannah Gross

Hannah Gross 

NLJ Correspondent 

 

Newcastle High School Principal Tracy Ragland has been with the Weston County School District No. 1 since he was a student. After graduating from NHS, he returned as a teacher, eventually becoming principal. But after many years of dedication, he is retiring this year to be closer to his grandchildren. 

Ragland graduated from NHS in 1982. At the University of Wyoming, he decided in his sophomore year to pursue a career in education. 

“I just really liked it and stuck with it,” Ragland said. 

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts, he spent a year in Kadoka, South Dakota, where he met his wife. In 1989, a teaching opportunity opened up in Newcastle, so Ragland decided to move back to his hometown to teach eighth grade science. He taught for nearly a decade until he applied for the athletic director position. He was hired and also began serving as assistant principal, eventually becoming the high school principal. 

School has always been important to him, Ragland said, and he enjoyed it as a student. 

“It just kind of felt like a natural fit,” he said. 

Throughout his teaching years, Ragland continued his own studies, and in 1993, he received a master’s degree in sports science from the U.S. Sports Academy. He earned another Master of Science from Chadron State College in 2001 and an education specialist degree from UW in 2008. Additionally, his doctoral dissertation was approved by UW the following spring. 

Being with the school district as both a student and teacher has allowed Ragland the unique opportunity to learn from teachers and later come back to teach with them, many of whom were his role models, he said. What he appreciates most about the district is
how much the student is
prioritized. 

“I had all kinds of role models,” Ragland said. “The focus has just always been on the student.”

Although COVID-19 presented some big challenges for the school this past year and continues to be a burden, Ragland said he also sees some positive things on the horizon, including the implementation of post-secondary education. Ragland said he suggested the curriculum to the building staff, and they took off running with it. 

“They did all the hard work and heavy lifting,” Ragland said. 

When he compares NHS to other school districts in the state, Ragland said Newcastle ranks above average, and he believes this new curriculum is helping with that. 

Watching students succeed and achieve their goals has always been very rewarding to Ragland, knowing that as teachers and administrators “we’re part of that.” He said he will miss seeing the kids and teachers every day, especially watching them grow up. He remembers when home economics teacher Liana Scribner was on maternity leave with her son, Samuel. She would come in every week to prepare the plans for the substitute teacher, so Ragland would hold the baby while Scribner worked. Now Samuel will be a freshman in high school. While he won’t have the direct interaction with students and teachers anymore, Ragland said he is grateful for the internet, so he can still connect with families and follow their life journeys. 

Ragland’s teaching philosophy and advice to in-coming high school principal Bryce Hoffman is to “be willing to take risks — even if you’re going to fail, it’s OK.” 

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” Ragland said.

Hoffman, who is the assistant principal at Newcastle Elementary School, was the former woodshop teacher under Ragland’s administration, and he always appreciated Ragland’s support of teachers to take risks and try new things.

“Working with Ragland was a great way to start a career as a teacher,” Hoffman said. “He really fostered an environment of growth.” 

Now that he is taking Ragland’s position, Hoffman said he wants to keep that safe environment and let the teachers feel supported. Teachers and students are “what really matter to me,” he said. 

“We have a great and talented staff,” Hoffman said. 

His biggest goal is to let voices be heard and increase communication between the school district and students’ parents by bringing a connection to the home life and student life. He also wants to communicate with the students that there will be a high expectation at NHS. 

To be closer to his kids and grandkids who live in Wall and Philip, South Dakota, Ragland accepted a principal position with the
school district in Philip. He looks forward to spending more time with his family in retirement, and Hoffman looks forward to filling Ragland’s shoes. 

“I’m just really excited to get started in the fall,” Hoffman said. “I really believe that in this role, I can continue to make a positive difference.” 

“He’s going to be just great. He’s got a very good feel for things,” Ragland said.

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