Superintendent search intensifies

by Dennis Dalman

An intensely detailed and rigorous selection process for a new superintendent has begun in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District, with a public-input meeting set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15 at Sartell High School.

The school board hopes to hire a new superintendent who would begin the job July 1, 2014.

The entire day of Oct. 15 will be filled with all kinds of input-gathering – from board-of-education members, the formation of seven focus groups, the president of the teachers union and the interim superintendent.

All of the meetings that day will be conducted by Dr. Ken Dragseth and Dr. Greg Vandal, who are superintendent consultants from “School Exec Connect.” Vandal, former Sauk Rapids-Rice superintendent, and Dragseth, former Edina superintendent, will meet with board members, school staff, parents, students and Sartell residents individually and in focus groups throughout the next few weeks.

All of the preparation work and input is to determine strengths, challenges and goals of the school district and then tying that together to make a perfect “fit” with a new superintendent.

Another important part of the process is a written five-question survey residents can fill out via the school district’s website’s “Survey Monkey” feature. The school board is requesting people fill in that survey by Oct. 20. The surveys will play a key role in determining the desired skills and characteristics of the next superintendent.

Currently, Mike Spanier is serving as interim superintendent. Spanier, director of learning services, was chosen for the job after Superintendent Dr. Joe Hill resigned last year. At that time, there were all sorts of contentious behavior and disagreements on the school board and with Hill. A new board, with mostly new members, was elected last November.

This new superintendent process was designed by the board to result in complete transparency and optimal public involvement, something the former board was accused of ignoring.

Search and interviews

The superintendent position has been widely advertised, and candidates will be recruited from now until Jan. 20.

On Jan. 27, the board, along with Dragseth and Vandal, will meet to review and select candidates that will be interviewed in depth Jan. 28-29. The interview process will narrow the number of candidates to two or three. Then, they will be interviewed on Feb. 3-5. Each candidate will be interviewed through an all-day process that will include open forums available for staff, students and residents to attend. They will be asked for input in the sessions. That will occur through a question-and-answer session with each candidate and filling in feedback sheets to be shared with the board.

The board anticipates it will be able to finalize a superintendent contract sometime in February.


Focus groups

To ensure wide participation in developing criteria and the selection process, focus groups will be formed from the following participants: district office administration, building administration, certified staff, non-certified staff, high school students, community leaders and school leaders.

Individual interviews will be conducted by board members, the interim superintendent and the teachers’ union president, with public input on the final interviews.

Residents may also contact any school board member and the two consultants: Ken Dragseth at 952-210-2790 and Greg Vandal at 320-247-3739. For school board members’ phone numbers, see section below.

The public is encouraged to attend the open meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15 at Sartell High School.

In addition, the public is urged to fill out the online survey before Oct. 20. To do so, go to the school district website at and look for the “Survey Monkey” form. All replies will be confidential.

Here are the survey questions:

1. List the three most important goals for your school district to achieve in the next three years.

2. List your district’s three greatest strengths/attributes for achieving these goals.

3. List your district’s greatest challenges/barriers for achieving these goals.

4. Describe the three most important characteristics/skills the next superintendent needs to possess to be successful.

5. What questions/areas would you like the Board to ask the candidates as they select the superintendent.

Board members

The Sartell-St. Stephen School District Board members and their phone numbers are as follows:

Chair person: Michelle Meyer, 320-761-2000.

Vice chair: Mary McCabe, 320-259-9000.

Treasurer: Jason Nies, 612-695-0782.

Krista Durrwachter, 320-333-9042.

Pam Raden, 320-250-0500.

Dan Riordan, 320-259-4104.

Dennis Dalman

Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.
Dennis Dalman

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