by Dennis Dalman
After two weeks of intensive interviews with three finalist candidates, the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board selected their choice for a new superintendent – Jeff Schwiebert of Eldridge, Iowa.
The board made the decision Feb. 6, the third of three full days of interviews and meet-the-public sessions with the three candidates.
The board’s vote to choose Schwiebert was 6-0.
Schwiebert is not yet officially the new superintendent. He and the board must arrive first at a satisfactory work-contract agreement. If that occurs and Schwiebert accepts, he will begin his duties in July.
Schwiebert was most recently superintendent of the North Scott Community School District in Eldridge. He announced his intention to resign from that position just before the start of the 2013-14 school year.
The other two candidates were Paul Neubauer, director of curriculum and instruction at St. Francis, and Debra Lechner, director of teaching and learning for the Brainerd School District. Lechner was director of teaching and learning for Sartell schools before taking the Brainerd job 12 years ago.
Before the vote, the board was informed that Lechner has a recent job offer in Vienna and probably would not accept the Sartell position. The board was also notified Neubauer currently has several other job options he is actively considering.
The three finalists for superintendent were chosen from about 40 candidates who submitted applications. The entire process was facilitated by the consulting firm of “School Exec Connect,” which presented seven semi-finalists to the school board two weeks ago. The board then interviewed those seven and narrowed the number to three top choices.
During the week of Feb. 3, there was a flurry of meetings with students, staff and community members, a school-board dinner for the candidates and separate interviews by the board of each candidate.
“We had several great candidates,” said Michelle Meyer, school-board chair. “We are excited to move forward with negotiations with Schwiebert. He brings a variety of experiences and exceptional qualities of leadership to our district, which will help us continue to move forward.”
Schwiebert and his wife, Deb, have two children – daughter Allie and son Aaron. Both are high-school graduates.
Schwiebert was hired by the North Scott Community School District in Eldridge since 2009, when he was hired at a salary of $150,000 for a three-year contract, beating out three other contenders for the superintendent job. That school board also hired him on a 6-0 vote.
On his resume, Schwiebert listed his listening skills and his ability to determine through careful listening and consultation exactly what a school district needs.
Eldridge is part of the Quad-City area of east central Iowa, along the Mississippi River. The other cities in that area are Davenport and Bettendorf, both in Iowa, and Rock Island and Moline, both on the Illinois side of the river. Eldridge has a population of about 6,000. The North Scott (county) School District, highly consolidated, has seven schools: a junior high school, a senior high school and five elementary schools.
Before his job in North Scott, Schwiebert started his career as a teacher in the Mount Vernon (Iowa) Community School District, a town of about 4,000 people in east central Iowa with a junior high school, senior high school and an elementary school. There, he spent the early years of his educational service: teacher, assistant principal, principal, athletic director and superintendent.
Schwiebert earned bachelor’s degrees in history and education from Cornell College (Mount Vernon, Iowa) in 1981. He then earned a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Iowa and a superintendent certificate from the University of Northern Iowa.
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.