by Mike Knaak and Dennis Dalman
ANOKA — Sartell-St. Stephen Superintendent Jeff Ridlehoover was chosen as one of two finalists to lead Minnesota’s largest school district but the job went to the other candidate who has more experience at a large district.
Ridlehoover and Cory McIntyre, superintendent of Osseo Area Schools in Maple Grove, advanced from a field of five candidates in a search for a new superintendent for the Anoka-Hennepin school district. After a full day of interviews with each candidate, the Anoka-Hennepin school board voted 5-1 on Dec. 7 to offer the job to McIntyre, who served as an assistant superintendent in the district from 2018-2019.
In his final pitch to the board following an hourlong interview on Dec. 7, McIntyre cited his previous work in the district gave him a “running start” and coupled with experience in another very large school district made him “a really great fit.”
Board members seemed to agree. They cited McIntyre’s years as a superintendent and experience in a large school district as reasons for the selection.
With more than 38,000 students and a $600 million budget, Anoka-Hennepin is made up of 13 communities north of the Twin Cities. The district has 26 elementary schools, six middle schools and five traditional high schools, plus alternative middle and high school sites. By contrast, Sartell-St. Stephen serves 4,100 students in five schools. The Osseo district, just south of Anoka-Hennepin, serves 21,000 students in 17 elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools.
Board member Jeff Simon summed up the board’s consensus. He said both candidates were” thoroughly qualified and could do a great job.” But he backed McIntyre because of more than three years as a superintendent and experience at a large district. Ridlehoover has been Sartell-St. Stephen superintendent for 18 months.
Board member Erin Heers-McArdle supported McIntyre because of his “specific, real-world experience in big districts.” Although she backed McIintyre, board member Kacy Deschene said Ridlehoover related to the community and praised his energy and enthusiasm. “Sartell is lucky to have him,” she said.
The lone vote against McIntyre came from Matt Audette, who won election a year ago by campaigning to end the district’s masking policy and opposing teaching critical race theory.
During his tenure in Sartell, Ridlehoover presided over ongoing concerns about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. He also worked with the school board to develop a long-term strategic plan, including policies regarding equity for all students and ways to prevent incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying.
Ridlehoover began his administrative career in 2003 as an administrative intern in the Anoka-Hennepin district. Early in his career, Ridlehoover was a chemistry teacher at Champlin Park High School, which is also a member of the Anoka-Hennepin school district. Ridlehoover was assistant superintendent in the Mounds View district before coming to Sartell-St. Stephen.
The board has to negotiate a contract with McIntyre before the offer becomes official.