School Board revisits superintendent hiring process; Peterson school site sale falls through

By : 
SCOTT BESTUL
TRI-COUNTY RECORD

With applications for the R-P schools superintendent position already arriving at the R-P District office, the school board continued discussions about the interview process at its Dec. 17 meeting. The board also reviewed an audit of district finances and learned the sale of the Peterson school site had failed.

Superintendent interviews

While interviews for candidates hoping to fill the spot vacated by retiring Superintendent Chuck Ehler are scheduled for the end of next month, the board continues to wrestle with exactly how those interviews will be conducted. Supt. Ehler informed the board that he had received input from teachers, staff and others wishing to be part of the interview process. Ehler then met with a leadership team consisting of R-P principals Shepherd and Timm, as well as Community Ed. director Lawston, which led to a potential outline of the interview process. That process included interviews with each candidate by three separate groups: teachers, support staff, and school board members in a one-day schedule.

But several board members were troubled by the document outlining this prospective plan. Director Prinsen noted, “We talked about the prospect of having multiple interviews during the November meeting and rejected it. We also committed to a two-day interview process. We also spent a lot of time getting input from the MSBA (MN School Board Assoc.), why would we ignore that?” Director Iverson was also concerned that the suggested process consisted of separate interviews by each team. “That doesn’t allow everyone to see and hear the candidates answer each question,” she said. “There is more to a response than just the words.”

Of primary concern to the board was that, while the suggested process involved multiple team members, the school board has the ultimate (and legal) responsibility for making the hiring decision. Director Mierau seemed to summarize the general concern when he commented, “It’s a board decision, but I think it’s important to gather input from the people affected by the hire. I just don’t want to create a monster.”

After this extended discussion the board agreed to settle on a final process, and interview questions, at its Jan. 7 organizational meeting. The deadline for applications is Jan. 11, 2019, with interviews scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

Peterson school building sale

The board received a letter from Roger Anderson regarding his purchase of the Peterson school building. Anderson, who had plans to convert the building into an aviation training center, had asked the board for an extension of his purchase agreement while he secured funding. Anderson had proposed meeting the terms of the agreement by Dec. 20, and that he would pay the district $100/day from the date of his November letter until he met the purchase agreement terms.

 But Supt. Ehler told the board that he had received a letter from Anderson informing him that Anderson could not secure funding and was backing out of the purchase agreement. Board chair Linder said, “I think it’s time to move forward.” Ehler agreed and said, “We need to work with our legal counsel to rescind the agreement and re-advertise the property for sale.”

Financial audit/ Truth in Taxation

Kali Olstad, of Smith & Schafer Associates, presented an extensive power point outlining her firm’s audit of Dist. 239. Olstad summarized four main categories in her report: General Fund: expenditures exceeded revenues by $342,000, but that figure fell within the district’s goals; Food Service: revenues exceeded expenditures, by $1,646, leaving a balance of $77,412; Community Service: expenditures exceeded revenues by over $82,000, leaving a deficit of $47,985. Olstad said her firm issued the district an unmodified “clean” opinion of the district finances.    

Later, during the Truth in Taxation portion of the meeting, Toni Oian went over some of the same figures and was present to address any questions from the public. No members of the public appeared.

Athletic Director resignation

The R-P board received resignation letters from Foodservice Assistant Ruth Knutson (effective Dec. 21) and Activities Director (A.D.) Dan Bieberdorf (effective June 4, 2019). Bieberdorf’s resignation generated some discussion, as he does not plan to leave the district and is hoping to secure a position as a middle school math teacher. Currently, Bieberdorf is a full-time employee, with duties split between the A.D. position (.35) and technology (.65), though he is only considered tenured for a .65 position.

The discussion that ensued was whether there was a math position open for Bieberdorf to pursue. Principal Timm said that the position currently held by Wendy Feldmeier was created by a leave of absence requested by Rod Anderson last summer and Bieberdorf would have seniority. “[Dan] is a tenured teacher and would be allowed to apply for that position,” Timm said. The board approved the resignation of Bieberdorf from the A.D. position, effective June 4, 2019.

Schedule

The R-P School Board will hold its organizational meeting Mon. January 7, at 5:30 p.m.