Herald Journal Herald and Journal, March 25, 2002

Board gets supt. seaching moving

By Lynda Jensen

With a newly found spirit of cooperation, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board settled into the task of finding a new superintendent during two meetings last week.

The board engaged in well rounded conversations that resulted in several decisions being made about the search Thursday.

A pile of resumes was rather quickly reduced to six applicants, plus one addition that arrived after the deadline, but nevertheless caught the board's eye.

Another secondary list is being kept, in a prioritized number, in case the first round applicants do not work out.

Applicants hailed from Oregon, North Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and a number from Minnesota.

Interviews will be conducted in one-hour sessions Wednesday, April 3, starting at 8:30 a.m.

It was decided to allow one staff member to observe and contribute opinions to the interviews if asked, although the staff member will not actively participate in the process.

Board member John Lideen initiated the discussion about involving the staff, and Supt. Riley Hoheisel indicated it would be a good idea.

"I think that's very fair," Hoheisel commented of a staff member's input. It would show respect to ask for input, he said. "They know you ultimately have the decision," he said.

Board member Jim Fowler will ask candidates questions, with another person keeping track of the time to assure each candidate of a fair turn.

There will be one essay question included to test each applicant's ability to communicate in writing.

At the end of the question process, applicants may ask their own questions to a board member, which was suggested by Lideen.

Former board member Mary Pettit will be asked to take candidates on tour of the community, along with other volunteers willing to donate time.

Approximately 30 questions will be asked of the candidates, ranging from financial prowess to what kind of recreation activities the candidate prefers.

Lideen remarked that he would like a candidate who is active in the community and involved in recreational activities.

Board member Charles Weber echoed this sentiment, saying it was important to know a candidate's recreational preferences.

"I don't care what he does for recreation," remarked Ken Zimmerman.

Following discussion about the interview criteria, board member Gene Lorentz suggested offering the position the same day, when the interviews are still fresh on everyone's minds.

However, he reversed this suggestion when he realized it would leave no time for a visit to the candidates' home, thus abandoning the idea.

"Last time, we found some thorns," Lorentz commented, referring to past hirings by the district.

The board sorted through several applications Thursday.

One applicant was ejected because of negative reviews from phone calls to his board and a community member. Apparently, the applicant's school district was mired in serious financial problems, with the district currently in $900,000 statutory operation debt.

Another applicant received positive reviews from a special education contact mentioned to Lorentz. "Take if for what it's worth," he said.

This same candidate had 11 years experience as a superintendent, as well as experience in levies and referendums, Fowler noted.

Hoheisel cautioned board members to choose a superintendent who would best match HLWW, reminding them the district was small and situated in a rural area.

"Look for the best fit," he said.

Before the board reached its decisions, it inched along with the subject last Monday.

During the meeting, each member recited five numbers identifying their top choices for superintendent candidates.

The system was done in lieu of a committee making the choices due to previous disagreements.

Several of the numbers overlapped, with less than half the candidates remaining after the 25 numbers called.

Hoheisel pressed the board about the time element during both meetings, since this is a crucial time right now in districts across the state who are suffering from budget cuts.

Superintendents who are victims of budget cuts are probably in the hiring process right now, Hoheisel said, and the difference of a week or two may mean the best applicants are already hired away by other districts, Hoheisel said.

"It's a critical time for other districts," Hoheisel said.

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