Dick Ungar has been a parent, a teacher, a coach, an administrative dean, an athletic director, and assistant principal in District 112, and since Dec. 2016, the principal at Chanhassen High School.
This week, Ungar announced he is retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
In total, 27 of his 34 years as an educator, Ungar spent in Eastern Carver County Schools, including all 12 years since the opening of Chanhassen High School in 2008.
"With that unique perspective in mind, I can tell you that ECCS is a great place for students, staff and administrators to come to school each day. The care and genuine sense of concern for everyone’s well-being is unmatched. I am truly thankful for the time spent with this learning community," Ungar said.
An assistant principal at the time in 2016, Ungar stepped up into the interim principal role and was officially hired in April 2017. Superintendent Clint Christopher, at the time, remarked about Ungar's ability to "build strong relationships and his skills working with students, staff and families are well-suited for Chanhassen High School."
Christopher added Ungar was the "right person" to lead the school.
"I am also confident that the faculty and staff at Chanhassen High School will continue to deliver amazing learning experiences. There is a great team of caring and committed people in this building, dedicated to providing you with an outstanding education. Whoever is next to lead, they are in good hands," Ungar said.
Ungar has been part of Eastern Carver County Schools since 1993, starting as a middle school art teacher. He earned a Master’s degree from St. Thomas and later a specialist degree in educational leadership. He has been an assistant principal and activities director since 2002 serving at the Freshman Center followed by Chaska High School. He helped open Chanhassen High School as athletic director starting in 2008.
"(To) the Class of 2020, I want to say these are not the circumstances with which any of us wanted to say goodbye. You have been an important part of my career in education, and I am thinking of each and every one of you as we each get ready for the next chapter in our lives. Your Chanhassen administration, as well as district leadership, continue to monitor information from the state with the hope that we will still get a chance to celebrate each other in person. We are also working on other opportunities to honor you for the work you did to get to graduation," Ungar said.
THE PRINCIPAL OF THE PEOPLE
Erin Swoboda has seen the impact of Ungar at Chanhassen High School firsthand. She's been administrative dean and now assistant principal alongside Ungar since 2013.
"It is hard to put into words what a steady source of encouragement, inspiration and joy Dick Ungar has been to the Chan family. He greets every single person he encounters with a smile and a genuine hello, often using the person’s first name as he values relationships above all else. He has taught us all to step back, savor the moment and just be," Swoboda said.
Words of praise and love poured in from the community throughout the week as the announcement began public.
From former students to former athletic director colleagues to district staff, the message was one of care and positive impact.
"Thank you for being a great role model for me and many other students. You always greeted everyone with a smile and cared for every single student," Dickie Schalow, Chaska High School alumni, said.
"Lucky enough to have started as an athletic director during that part of his career. Incredibly kind man and a fantastic leader," Eastview High School Athletic Director Matt Percival said.
"Dick would always stop everything to share a smile, a celebration, a fist bump or a high five," Swoboda said. "Dick always greeted the students as they entered the building each day, talking to students during all four lunch shifts on a daily basis and waving goodbye at the buses (again, each and every day)."
Former Chanhassen High School Athletic Department secretary Connie Palmer worked with nine athletic directors, including Ungar in three separate occasions.
"He always put the kids first and had an open door policy that was used often. Dick always made sure to acknowledge the accomplishments of the student athletes. He was very generous with a wicked sense of humor. I wish him the best of luck in his retirement. Well deserved," Palmer said.
Swoboda reflected back to the past four school years, on the many experiences she shared with Ungar.
Among her favorite memories were the PRIDE rides celebrating students for showing Storm pride, sharing a lunch meal at a local restaurant.
"Dick always drove the bus and just beamed the whole time," she said.
Together, Ungar and Swoboda introduced the BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) program this year for all ninth graders.
"This program allowed each and every student to be on a team that really got to know each student as an individual. It ensured that the students’ ninth grade year was set up for success from the beginning with caring adults strongly involved and engaged from the first day of school," Swoboda said.
Ungar assured everyone he still plans to remain in the Chanhassen Storm community. His son, Alec, will be a senior at the high school in 2020-21.
"It has been a privilege and honor to lead this school and to get to know each and every one of you. I am proud – and forever will be – to be a part of the Storm Nation – and hope you are too," Ungar said.