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Search for PR superintendent is narrowing

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Menahga School Superintendent Mary Klamm is among the six semi-finalists approved by the Park Rapids School Board to undergo interviews by community members, school staff and the board for the superintendent position.

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Meeting in special session Monday afternoon, the board ratified the selections made by the BKB Consultants.

From the July 12 interviews, two or three finalists are expected to be selected. The board will make the final determination as to who will serve as the next Park Rapids Schools superintendent.

Prior to Monday's meeting with search committee members present, the board reviewed the 16 applications received for the position vacated by the resignation of Glenn Chiodo. Only the names of the six finalists were made public.

"This was a pleasant task to orchestrate," said Jerry Robicheau in presenting the recommendations. "It wasn't that way 10 or 12 years ago."

But he urged the board, staff and community members to resist complacency. "This is a healthy district financially, but it needs to be maintained, strategies developed" to assure the operating levy is renewed by voters.

He reviewed interview protocol and procedure. Each committee will interview a candidate for an hour, with a timeline of three minutes per question, subject to discretion.

An interview question and rating sheet has been drafted, questions and answers to become public record when the selection process is complete.

Robicheau reminded the interviewers the candidates may also ask questions, seeking information on the "sense of the community."

"Park Rapids has an excellent reputation," he said. "The district is attractive for a career move."

n The semi-finalists include Klamm, who has 14 years' experience in school administration as a principal and superintendent.

Her strengths as defined by BKB, include providing leadership in curriculum, active in community groups and staying abreast of the latest technology.

Klamm's references cite her grant writing and the ability to find resources. "She has been very successful in leading student achievement gains," one wrote.

She is described as a team builder who can work with others, a visionary and data driven.

Klamm is the only woman finalist, and is the only candidate from a district smaller than Park Rapids.

n Raymond Arsenault, a Minnesota native, is superintendent in Gallup, N.M. He has 10 year's experience in school administration.

Arsenault, who is fluent in Spanish, has worked in advanced placement and has experience with diverse schools in New Mexico. He has experience as a principal in curriculum alignment and quality schools.

References describe him as hardworking with strong public relations skills and political savvy, a problem solver with the ability to mediate situations.

Arsenault, "took hold of a $92 million budget and developed a plan to balance it," Robicheau said, the district continuing on solid financial ground.

n Steve Thomas, a former superintendent who's currently employed as a financial manager, has 10 years' experience as administrator in schools and college.

He has experience as a college dean, elected official, author, speaker and hospital administrator.

"He believes children's best interests be at the center of discussion," Robicheau said.

References describe him as "sensitive, patient and sturdy, a person of integrity and honesty."

He holds an ABD (all but dissertation) in the PhD program at Michigan State University.

n Kevin Wellen, superintendent of NRHEG (New Richland, Hartland, Ellendale and Geneva) has 14 years' administrative experience with "strong financial knowledge. As a supporter of technology, he integrated Smart Boards in the classroom and a one-one plan for iPads.

References describe Wellen as honest and trustworthy, open to new ideas and approachable, possessing good communication skills. He keeps people informed, is a long-range planner and effective leader.

n Lance Bagstad has five years' experience as the current superintendent at Renville County West, having served as principal from 2000-07. He worked as teacher and elementary coordinator from 1996-2000.

Bagstad "has a vision of moving a district into the future with technology." He has worked on a $7 million bond for modernization of facilities and to put iPads in the hands of each student in grades 4-12.

References call Bagstad an excellent facilitator and communicator who builds positive relations, has a high level of integrity, is organized and non-confrontational.

n Kirk Nelson, current superintendent of Jordan Schools, has 31 years in administrative experience. He is a "data driven leader, a strong believer in how technology will enhance education and a facilitator of learning."

References cite his ability to build relationships. He "treats all with respect, is a strong advocate for students learning, will hold people accountable and has strong ethics and good communication skills."

Three committees comprised of citizens, staff and two board members will conduct the daylong rounds of interviews. From this, each committee will narrow the selection to two or three people. The entire search committee will arrive at a two- or three-candidate consensus.

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