Six candidates for District 88 superintendent named

NEW ULM – Six candidates will be interviewed Monday for the position of District 88 superintendent, according to a school board decision made during a work session Wednesday.

The job is being vacated at the end of this school year, by retiring District 88 Superintendent Harold Remme.

The board approved the following six candidates (or semi-finalists), listed alphabetically by last name:

Jeff Bertrang

Bertrang is the current superintendent of Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop (GFW) Public Schools. He has one and a half years of experience as a GFW superintendent; 13 years of experience as a principal/dean at GFW; and 13 years as an industrial tech teacher at GFW and Northwood.

Jean Broadwater

Broadwater is the Superintendent of Schools in Houston. Broadwater has four years of experience as superintendent at Houston and Kewaunee, Wis.; six years as a high school principal at West Bend, Wis.; and eight years as an elementary teacher in Milwaukee, Wis.

Karen Coblentz

Coblentz is an elementary principal in St. Peter. She has 13 years of experience as a principal in St. Peter and Dassel-Cokato; six years as a teacher and curriculum director in Windom; and six years as an elementary teacher in Appleton, Mankato and Japan.

Jeremiah Olson

He is the superintendent in Underwood. He has five years of experience as a superintendent in Underwood and Pingee, N.D.; seven years as a principal in Underwood, Pingee and Timber Lake, N.D.;, and two years as a social studies teacher in Four Winds, N.D.

Gregory Schmidt

He is the superintendent in MACCRAY (Maynard, Clara City, Raymond). He has seven years as superintendent in MACCRAY; seven years as a charter school director at RiverBend in Mankato; and four years as a teacher and site leader in Mankato and Le Sueur-Henderson.

Kevin Wellen

He is the superintendent in New Richland, Hartland, Ellendale, Geneva (NRHEG). He has nine years as a superintendent in NRHEG and Melrose; eight years as a high school principal in Walker and Sartell; and eight years as a teacher in Sartell and Waukegan, Ill.

Consultant Butch Hanson of the South Central Service Co-op, who recommended the approved list of semi-finalists, noted that about 15 people applied for the job.

“The pool isn’t real deep, but we have a good, strong slate,” he added.

Most of the people on the short list have superintendent experience, added Hanson.

The consultants evaluated the documentation submitted by candidates, matched their qualities against a list of desired attributes developed with help from the community, and also followed an evaluation form that takes into account the veterans preference process, explained Hanson.

The consultants conducted a 45-60-minute phone or face-to-face interviews with each candidate and, thanks to their own professional contacts, were also able to “visit with people outside the candidates’ reference pools” about each candidate, said Hanson.

The six semi-finalists on Monday will go through two interviews each: one with the school board, and one with an 11-member community committee. The interview questions have been prepared by the consultants, for consistency reasons. After each interview, each school board and community committee member will complete a feedback sheet on each candidate.

The community team includes teachers chosen by the teachers’ union, an administrator and community volunteers. The community committee members will not rate candidates – that is the board’s job, stressed Hanson. The community committee members will, however, list what they see as a candidate’s strengths, as well as their concerns and comments, and also state if they feel a candidate deserves further consideration.

The board will review the community feedback sheets and also be given time for individual rating of candidates. The board will then hold a discussion and zero in on approximately three finalists.

The finalists will be asked to the next round of interviews, one per day, at the end of March. On their respective day, each finalist will tour the school buildings with the current superintendent (while their spouse is offered a guided community tour), meet with administrators (who will also fill out a feedback form), then attend a one-hour open community forum to introduce themselves and answer questions from the audience. The candidates will round off their day with dinner with the school board. At the end of this round, the board will meet to deliberate its final choice.

During its work session, the school board also heard two presentations from Remme: about possible uses of funding generated in a successful local levy referendum last November and about implications of the federal Affordable Care Act. No decisions on these matters were made.

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