Irondale names new principal

Eric Nelson

Irondale High School in New Brighton will have a new principal effective July 1 as Eric Nelson takes over for outgoing principal Scott Gengler, who announced this past spring that he’d be moving west to Wayzata High School.

Nelson, most recently an assistant principal and dean of students at Edina High School for a total of 12 years, began his career as an educator in the mid-1990’s as a high school social studies teacher at Henry Sibley High School. He said making the leap to principal was always an idea he had, one that became a real possibility in the past couple of years.

“It’s always kind of in the back of your mind,” Nelson said, adding that it was the next step in his career. “This is an opportunity to try something different and go into an amazing district.”

Nelson studied history and political science at the University of Minnesota for his bachelor’s degree before continuing his studies there and earning a masters of education; he received an education specialist degree from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2005.

Nelson lives in Eagan with his wife and daughter, a soon-to-be seventh grader.

Edina High School principal Bruce Locklear, who worked with Nelson for seven years, said he is a “fine human being,” and that the student-centered educator will be missed at the school.

“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Locklear said. “The timing is good and it’s a position that he’ll thrive in.”

Locklear said that Nelson, in his role as assistant principal at Edina, championed the arts as an important part of education.

“The fine arts are a way for students to be more rounded,” Nelson explained, adding that musicians, for example, tend to be stronger all-around students.

In a release, Mounds View Public Schools Superintendent Dan Hoverman said the search for a new principal was undertaken by a committee of parents, school staff and students seeking someone with a “clear vision for providing a comprehensive program that will serve the needs of all students.”

“Eric’s experience demonstrates his clear commitment to ensuring all students realize success,” Hoverman said in the statement. “As an assistant principal in a similar-sized, high-performing school district, he is uniquely qualified to lead Irondale High School, and I know he is excited to embrace, honor and advance the outstanding history of Irondale.”

Nelson said that when he takes over as principal there will be no easing into the job, as it’s a “12 month [a year] position.” He said he’ll need to finish up some hiring tasks, as two deans at Irondale were recently promoted to assistant principal positions, and that he’ll evaluate the trajectory of the school over past three years. Overall, he said, Irondale is doing well, and he’s “not going to upset the applecart.”

“[We will] get ready to rock and roll the day after Labor Day,” Nelson said of his upcoming first day of school as a principal.

Scott Gengler was Irondale’s principal for the past five years and is switching districts to take over an administrative position as the overseer of Wayzata High School’s coming expansion this fall. According to a statement Gengler made in April, he will eventually transition into being the principal of that school.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


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