The Park Rapids School Board hired Michael LeMier of Pine City on Monday as the new principal of Century Elementary School.

The decision came after a special meeting Friday to interview three candidates for the position held for the last nine years by Joleen De La Hunt.

Meeting in the Century School media center for the purpose of social distancing, school board members interviewed LeMier, an assistant principal at a Pine City elementary school; Ben Midge, an elementary principal in Carlton; and Steph Mercil, the coordinator of educational services at Century Elementary.

Each applicant made a 10-minute presentation about what their first 100 days as principal would look like. School board members then asked them about what they will do on the first day of school; their career goals; books that have influenced them; how they would handle controversial decisions or teachers who are resistant to change; how they would respond to “high maintenance” families and criticism of a teacher; their thoughts about holding students back, test scores and bullying; and what they look for when they’re hiring staff.

Regarding bullying, Midge said one approach he has tried was to survey students weekly about whether they had been bullied or were a bully that week. He said he also works to educate children about the difference between a one-time instance of kids not being nice to each other and an ongoing issue with the same kid involving an imbalance of power, feeling unsafe in school, etc.

“We need to address those individual situations as they come up,” he said, noting that the survey approach has resulted in fewer complaints from parents about bullying. “Usually, we see a decrease over time. It’s proactive, and the feedback I’ve gotten has been all positive.”

Mercil, who had the “home-field advantage” of being able to wheel a cart of materials into the interview, played show-and-tell about the books that have influenced her. Titles included "The 360 Degree Leader" by John Maxwell, "What Great Principals Do Differently" by Todd Whitaker, "Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners" by John Hattie, “Lead Like a Pirate” by Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess, “The Art of Coaching” by Elena Aguilar, “Crucial Conversations” by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny and Ron McMillan, “Holistic Leadership, Thriving Schools” by Jane A. G. Kise, and “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek.

LeMier said that when hiring staff, “I look for someone who’s reflective. … I want to know that someone can be in a classroom and have a situation work well and say, ‘What did I do that helped this lesson go so well?’ or, what didn’t go so well and how they can do it better next time.”

He added that he also likes to see passion and excitement about teaching and learning.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad said there were more than 30 applicants for the position, a good quantity and quality of interest, “which tells me that Park Rapids is a great place to be, and one that people want to come to.”