by Mike Knaak
The search for a new Sartell-St. Stephen school district superintendent is off to a fast start. A survey should be online Friday, Jan. 8, and focus-group meetings will take place next week, according to a schedule the school board approved Jan. 4.
The district hired consultants School Exec Connect to conduct the search after Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert told the board last month that he plans to retire at the end of June.
A survey asking questions about the district’s strengths, goals and the desired characteristics of a new superintendent will be available from a link on the district’s website. Starting next week, Bob Ostlund and Ken Dragseth from the search firm will organize five focus groups. The two men are longtime Minnesota educators and former superintendents.
Focus groups will be arranged for district administrators, teachers, support staff, high school students and community members/parents. Each focus group will include 10 to 15 people and last about 45 minutes.
Normally, the focus groups are conducted in person but because of COVID-19 restrictions, they will probably take place virtually.
The consultants will present focus-group and survey results and a profile of a future superintendent to the board at its Jan. 25 meeting.
While the research takes places, advertising and recruitment of applicants will begin and run until Feb. 24.
By March 1, the board should receive packages for five or six candidates that will include multi-page application forms, reference letters, graduate school transcripts, a cover letter and licensure documents. If the board approves the slate of candidates, one-hour interviews by phone will follow. The next week, two or three finalists will participate in all-day interviews. The focus groups will meet with the candidates for about an hour and then provide feedback to the board. In the evening, the candidates will interview with the board.
Board members and the consultants aim to pick a candidate right after the interviews and negotiate a contract ahead of a March 15 meeting.
Board members asked Ostlund and Dragseth about the timeline and how many other districts are looking for leaders. Ostlund described the timeline as “tight” because the recruiting period is about a week shorter than normal. Right now there are no other openings in the area and he said, perhaps because of Covid-19, administrators are “hunkering down” and not changing jobs.
Ostlund described Sartell-St. Stephen as an “attractive” district and he’s not concerned about finding strong applicants.
Schwiebert has led the district for seven years. School Exec Connect also conducted the search that led to Schwiebert’s hiring in 2014.
Board leaders chosen
Two newly elected members and one re-elected member joined the board for its first meeting of the year. New members Matthew Moehrle and Patricia Melling were elected in November along with longtime board member Jason Nies. Board leadership remains largely the same with Jeremy Snoberger continuing as chair, Nies as vice chair and Amanda Bryd as clerk. Moehrle was elected treasurer. All officers were chosen without opposition.
The board’s next meeting is 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, at the high school.