by Dennis Dalman
Seven candidates are now vying for the position of superintendent of the Sartell-St. Stephen School District, and the one selected by the board might be announced as soon as the end of the first week of February.
The search is on for someone to replace Dr. Joe Hill, former Sartell-St. Stephen superintendent who resigned last year.
At a special school-board meeting Jan. 27, board members chose the seven candidates from an application pool of 38 on-line submissions. Those candidates are now being interviewed.
As of press time, four of them were slated to be interviewed Jan. 28 and three of them Jan. 29.
The board will then choose three finalists from the seven, and they will be interviewed the first week of February.
The seven finalists – six of them from Minnesota, one from Iowa – are the following, listed in the order in which they will be interviewed: John Engelkind, superintendent at Proctor; Jenny Bushman, director of curriculum instruction and assessment in the Winona School District; Jeff Schwiebert, superintendent for North Scott Community Schools in Eldridge, Iowa; Diane Moeller, assistant superintendent for St. Cloud District 742 and former principal of Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph; Ron Wilkie, superintendent at La Crescent; Paul Neubauer, director of curriculum and instruction at St. Francis; and Debra Lechner, director of teaching and learning for the Brainerd School District.
Lechner had worked in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District years ago as teaching and learning director until taking the Brainerd job 12 years ago. In addition, her late husband, Leon Lechner, was activities director for Sartell schools.
“The board will be faced with tough choices,” consultant Dr. Greg Vandal told the Sartell Newsleader right after the Jan. 27 meeting. “Sartell-St. Stephen has a great reputation, and lot of people are interested in being part of the school system.”
Vandal, former superintendent of the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District, is a member of the consulting firm of “School Exec Connect,” which was chosen last year by the school board to help in the search for a new superintendent. Vandal has worked side by side with another School Exec Connect consultant, Dr. Ken Dragseth, director of administrative licensure at the University of Minnesota’s School of Education and retired superintendent of the Edina School District.
From those finalists, the next round would happen Monday, Feb. 3, Wednesday, Feb. 5 and Thursday, Feb. 6 as each of the three finalists will be interviewed during public open forums on those evenings, one candidate on each evening, each starting at 7:45 p.m. in the Sartell High School Media Center. The public is invited to meet the candidates for a question-and-answer session starting at 5 p.m. on each of those days in the Sartell High Shool Media Center. All three forums will be open to staff, students and Sartell residents. The public-input sessions will culminate with a final interview of each candidate by the school board on each of those evenings at 7:45 p.m., also at the Media Center.
The final discussion during which school-board members will discuss all the candidates will take place at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, and the public is invited to sit in on that meeting at the Media Center.
As of press time Wednesday, the plan was to interview six or seven candidates Jan. 28 and Jan. 29. The board was then expected to narrow the field to two or three finalists.
“We are excited to move forward with the search process and finding a superintendent that will support our district’s vision and mission,” said Sartell-St. Stephen School Board Chair Michelle Meyer. “I hope the community will take the time to be part of the process by being at the sessions, asking questions of the candidates and providing feedback to the board.”
From the very beginning, the school board took pains to assure the superintendent search would be an open process, with public involvement at every step. Residents were invited to fill out surveys and several public-input meetings were held, including during the regularly scheduled school-board meetings.