R-P school board narrows superintendent candidate search to three

By : 
Scott Bestul
Tri-County Record

After an arduous two-day interview process that involved five candidates from three states, the Rushford-Peterson School Board selected a trio of finalists for the district’s superintendent position. Those finalists were chosen during a special meeting held Friday afternoon, Feb. 1. One candidate selected by the board as a finalist withdrew his application, which led the board to select one of their backup applicants. By the end of that meeting the board voted to extend invitations for a second interview to the following three candidates:

• Todd Lee, Superintendent and 7-12 principal, Howard School District, Howard, S. Dak.

• Jon Thompson, Superintendent, Aplington-Parkersburg Community Schools, Aplington, Iowa

• Jay Meiners, part-time high school science teacher, Lakeview Public Schools, Cottonwood, Minn.; learning co-facilitator for graduate students at Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, Minn.

Second interviews will be conducted Friday, Feb. 8. The board will interview Thompson at 8:30 a.m., Meiners (via Skype) at 10:30 a.m. and Lee at 1 p.m. They will then conduct a special meeting to discuss the interviews. The R-P school board is expected to announce its choice for R-P school superintendent by Tuesday, Feb. 19.

The school board’s special meeting concluded an interview process that started Thursday morning, Jan. 31, and ended Friday afternoon, Feb. 1. Though members of the school board conducted the interviews, district employees and members of the public were invited to sit in on the process. Board members discussed the interviews and finalists were chosen during a special meeting held following the conclusion of the interview process.

In other business conducted during the special board meeting, board members discussed the possibility of extending an early retirement incentive option to district employees that would assist in and extend health care coverage. The board opted to table making a final decision on this matter and will revisit the issue at its next meeting.

Regular meeting, Jan. 28

During its second regular meeting of the month, the school board listened to information about the school’s current school schedule from middle/high school principal Jake Timm, approved a golf cooperative agreement, and discussed the status of the district’s old buildings.

Trimester schedule

Timm began the meeting with a power point presentation that examined the background of the district’s current trimester format, which was selected by middle and high school staff, who gathered for multiple meetings with Timm starting in January 2016. Prior to the building of the new school, R-P middle school students were under a six-period day of 50-minute classes, plus a 30-minute study hall, and high school students observed a five period modified block schedule of three 78-minute classes and two 44-minute classes.

Before conducting the meetings, Timm surveyed the scheduling setups of many schools in the area, which gave participants comparison systems to examine. That process led to R-P’s current system, which the board gave Timm the approval to adopt in October 2016.

Under this system, R-P middle and high schoolers enjoy a trimester format. While Timm noted that the trimester system can create scheduling difficulties, it also allows students to sample a wider range of classes. “This is important for kids who aren’t sure what they want to pursue after graduation,” he said. Timm also noted that the addition of classes in business and the trades has not only met a growing need, but also elevated R-P above other districts. “In follow-up surveys with teachers, 66 percent agreed that the current schedule helps with college and career preparation following graduation,” he said. “We know the system has flaws, and I get that,” Timm said. “But my job is to do what’s best for over 200 high school kids. We’ll keep on tweaking it as we go.”

Old school buildings 

Director Chris Grindland addressed the topic of the district’s vacated buildings, voicing concerns that the buildings would suffer from neglect, further burden the district, and become less attractive to any potential buyers. Grindland suggested the district sell the buildings to the City of Rushford for $100. Supt. Ehler noted that, while there is “increasing pressure” to do something with the buildings, the district is working with the city to explore options. “Our facilities committee is working with the city and I encourage the district to allow them to work through that process,” he said.

Ehler noted that an interested individual wanted to walk through the building Jan. 29, and also reminded the board that the district was only paying electric utilities and basic liability insurance to maintain the site. “I don’t believe there’s any urgency,” said Chairman Jon Linder. “The building may have some value, and I think we should consider that.” Linder also noted the city’s desire to raze the site, which some residents will likely oppose. After some discussion, the board elected to wait for more input from the facilities committee before taking any action.

Golf pairing

In a previous meeting, the board heard from Activities Director Bieberdorf about a possible cooperative agreement between the R-P and Lewiston-Altura (L-A) districts to partner in golf. Currently the two districts cooperate in cross-country and wrestling. While L-A had more golfers than R-P last season (two girls and seven boys for R-P, 10 girls and 12 boys for L-A), Lewiston is losing its golf course and outdoor practice facility. Pairing would involve the schools practicing outdoors at Rushford, while L-A would contribute indoor facilities and a simulator. The pairing would also allow a full varsity and junior varsity team for the LARP boys and girls teams. The board voted unanimously to adopt the cooperative agreement.

Schedule

The R-P school board will hold a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 19, to finalize its selection for superintendent. The next regular meeting of the R-P school board is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25 at 5:30 p.m.