by Mike Knaak
Three finalists will face final interviews next week for Sartell-St. Stephen superintendent.
After initial one-hour interviews with six candidates, the board at a March 3 meeting selected three applicants to move forward in the superintendent search.
The board will interview Greg Johnson, superintendent of the Albany school district since 2014; Kay Nelson, assistant superintendent of the Sartell-St. Stephen school district since 2012; and Jeff Ridlehoover, assistant superintendent of the Mounds View school district since 2017.
The three will visit the district next week for day-long interviews on Monday, March, 8, Wednesday, March 10, and Thursday, March 11. Ridlehoover is scheduled for March 8, Nelson for March 10 and Johnson for March 11. After the March 11 session, the board is expected to select one candidate for an offer.
The board hopes to have the new superintendent chosen by mid March. Current Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert announced in December that he plans to retire June 30 after serving the district for seven years.
Johnson earned his Superintendent Certification from St. Mary’s University and his Sixth Year Certification in education administration from Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Earlier, he earned a master’s degree in educational administration and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Johnson was a principal in Sartell-St. Stephen, St. Cloud and Swanville schools. He started his career as an elementary teacher in Moorhead.
Nelson earned her Superintendent Certification from St. Mary’s University. She received a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from St. Cloud State University and a bachelor’s degree in education from Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall. Nelson’s first position in the Sartell-St. Stephen school district was a music teacher before becoming the district’s assessment specialist. She taught music in Liverpool, New York, and the Rocori school district. She started her career as a music teacher in Upsala.
Ridlehoover earned a doctorate from Hamline University. He earned his master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota. In addition to serving as an assistant superintendent, Ridlehoover is also an adjunct professor at Hamline University. He has held principal positions in Mounds View, Wayzata and Anoka-Hennepin school districts. Earlier he taught chemistry at Champlin Park High School. He started his career as a science teacher in Lakeville.
During the daylong visits next week, each candidate will meet with students, staff and community members. At the end of each day, there will be a community forum at 5 p.m. at the Sartell High School Performing Arts Center followed by a 6:15 p.m. social engagement session and a 7:15 p.m. board interview in Watab 101-102 in the high school.
The board selected the slate of six candidates from a pool of 18 applicants during a special meeting March 1.
The original pool included 18 applicants compiled by search consultants School Exec Connect. Of the 18, 13 were from Minnesota, and the group included 14 men and four women.
“For the first time in 50 to 60 searches, every person who started an application finished it,” said Bob Ostlund of the search firm, indicating “they are serious about Sartell. It’s an excellent field.”
School Exec Connect vetted the candidates against a profile developed during interviews and focus groups throughout the district during January and by calling references.
Ostlund said applicants for open positions are down right now and other searches School Exec Connect conducted this year produced 12 to 13 applicants.
“It’s an interesting time right now,” Ostlund said. “We’ve found the number of applicants is down from what we typically receive.” He suspects the response is pandemic-related and that the same thing happened during the Great Recession.