Preparations for the selection of a new Rushford-Peterson School District Superintendent continue. At the Monday, December 17 school board meeting, Superintendent Chuck Ehler provided a chart for the interview process which he said was based on feedback from the teachers and board members requesting a process of involving others in the interview process.
Ehler’s suggestions for interviews narrowed the candidates to four and included a tim frame for a rotational interview process of four, one-hour sessions for the final candidates. Three of the sessions would be conducted by teacher, support staff, and school board committees, respectively, and the fourth session would include a tour of the facility.
The fifth and final hour would be for the committees to report back to the school board with a summary.
“I realize that’s a lot of people,” acknowledged Ehler. “Technically comes down to 36 people conducting interviews, but it facilitates everybody getting an opportunity to experience, first hand, questions and concerns that they might have in their particular areas.”
Board Director Bonnie Prinsen was the first to pose some concern for Ehler’s suggestions. “I have a lot of concerns with this. As we’re trying to move forward with this process, and our deadline is less than a month away, we already talked about this at our November 5 meeting. The board decided against it and talked about having one interview. I thought it was pretty clear.”
“Also, when we set up the timeline, we set up two full days for interviews, Thursday and Friday. The board committed to being available those two days, several of us talked about taking time off work; so my biggest question is, and I don’t think it’s moving us forward, is why are we making decisions that we’ve already discussed?” asked Prinsen.
“I appreciate what you’re saying and yes. But, prior to your decision making, and I’m not trying to undermine that,” responded Ehler. “I’m completely understanding of where you’re coming from, but at the same time, I’m sensitive to allowing other entities to be involved in the process and to feel like they have some ownership in who they’re choosing as their school leader.”
“We have all these guidelines from Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA). Why would you want to ignore that?” asked Prinsen.
Board Director Joyce Iverson noted some concern over not hearing all that candidates might say during committee interviews and Ehler countered that it’s the reason for facilitator reports to the board after committee interviews. “I don’t mean to overstep my bounds here. I respect what you’re saying about MSBA, but I also know what’s going to work for our school district. I know, placing value on other people’s input is of extreme importance,” said Ehler.
Prinsen indicated she’d understood others want to be present and that questions can be submitted for the school board to ask. In addition, the board has to approve all questions ahead of time, which could prove cumbersome in a multiple committee interview.
Board Director Jon Pettit expressed further concern. “I see it that these kinds of things allow the board members to do less and be responsible for less and as facilitators, it gives the administration a tremendous amount of sway and gives teachers that same over-the-top sway. I don’t believe that’s what any one of you were elected for. It’s your responsibility, and you do need all of the information these people are documenting, but it’s your duty to get it from those people or accept it; either seek it out or absorb it when they bring it to you.”
New Board Director Chris Grindland brought the conversation back to the topic at hand and noted a recommendation had been given to the board on how to proceed. Board Director Val Howe reiterated how the last interview process was handled. Looking for some common ground, it was determined that questions be collected from the committee groups, but that the board follow the MSBA recommendation for the interview process.
The school board will meet to review files before determining final candidate selections. Applications are due January 11. Screening is scheduled for mid-January and interviews with the finalists will be conducted Thursday, January 31, and Friday, February 1.
In other news, the pending purchase agreement for the former Peterson Middle School has reached the school board set deadline of December 20. “Indications are now that he will not be able to fulfill his obligation for moving forward with that purchase agreement,” noted Ehler. “Thank you for your patience with this whole process. It’s time for us to press the envelope a little bit.”
“This was an extension already that we gave and if we’re inclined that we need to move forward, one of the things would be to cancel the purchase agreement,” added Board Chairman John Linder. The district will seek to advertise the building for sale again.