Meet Liberty’s First Principal

A decade later, Mr. Phil Ragusky recalls the precedent he set during the inaugural years of Liberty High School


provided by Phil Ragusky

Mr. Phil Ragusky (far right) and his family pose at Liberty’s first home football game.

Liberty High School has been well-acquainted with the current building principal, Dr. Ed Nelson, since he obtained the position back in 2015. But how many students know the man who was instrumental in setting the foundation Dr. Nelson would build upon? That man is Phil Ragusky. 

Ragusky served as the principal of Frontier Middle School before transferring to Liberty for the building’s inaugural academic year in 2013. Though he had nearly nine years of admin experience at Frontier, along with previous admin experience at the high school level, he was initially hesitant about undergoing the application process at the brand new Liberty High School.

“Quite honestly I thought there would be plenty of other people who would want to be principal or would be better than me, so I didn’t aspire to be principal at first.” Ragusky recollected, “I guess somewhere along that last year when the designs were made and plans were drawn up, I started to think that maybe my time at Frontier had gotten to the point where somebody else could come in and do a better job.”

Ragusky was granted the role of Liberty’s first-ever building principal, a position he would hold for two years before making the difficult decision to step down. He also had the privilege of hiring staff for the first three years of the school’s existence, many of which remain current staff members at Liberty today.

“There’s a lot of reasons why I moved on. That was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make in my career, to move on from Liberty,” Regusky expressed. “It’s a great place.” 

Students from Discovery Ridge Elementary present Mr. Ragusky with Liberty’s first PTO gift. (provided by Phil Ragusky)

When Ragusky began working at Liberty, the school had a completely different atmosphere than it does today. Only underclassmen attended during the 2013-2014 school year, and the building itself didn’t include an auditorium. 

“I think it was one or two years after I left when [Liberty] almost doubled in classroom size, which obviously we needed to take on the larger enrollment,” Ragusky commented. “Physically the building is beautiful, we didn’t have an auditorium so I love that the fine arts and theater area have been built up.”

Though Ragusky retired from public education in June 2020, he now works for Missouri Baptist University as the Director of Field Experiences. Through this position, he helps to place future educators in classrooms across the state. Ragusky explains how he goes into “a lot of buildings with [his] current job,” yet he believes Liberty is “still one of the best in terms of the climate.”

He continues, “Since I’m not here day to day it’s hard to tell, but from the outside the culture remains and I really think those first couple years were integral in establishing that culture, which is essential.” In reference to Liberty’s climate, he states that “people should be able to walk in the building and feel it’s a welcoming building, and that’s hard to define. It’s just a feeling you get when you walk in, that you’re gonna be heard and respected, and that this is a place where you can learn, grow and meet some friends.”

With a decade of Liberty in the books, Ragusky took a minute to envision where the school will be in the next 10 years.

“With a school like this, you look at the community, you look at the surrounding infrastructure, it’s growing. People want to move here, so you have everything you need for success.” Ragusky admired, “There’s no reason why this school doesn’t continue to grow to be one of the top schools in the state of Missouri.”