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Firm chosen for Brainerd District 181 superintendent search

A professional firm will head the search process for the next superintendent of the Brainerd School District.

At a special School Board meeting Thursday, the group approved going with School Exec Connect, an Illinois-based firm that specializes in placing school leaders in districts.

The vote is contingent on legal review of the contract and possible final contract negotiations.

Current Superintendent Steve Razidlo recently announced his resignation effective at the end of the year. He accepted a three-year contract as superintendent at The American International School in Vienna, Austria.

To start the replacement process, school board officials interviewed two firms last week during the Minnesota School Board Association conference. Interviewed were School Exec Connect and the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA).

School Board Chairwoman Ruth Nelson, who helped interview the two organizations, recommended the board choose School Exec Connect. The cost is steeper, but the organization offers a more in-depth search process, she said.

“They have a system down and are excited about it,” she said. “They know our district.”

School board member Bob Nystrom added, “They have a lot of connections to leaders of the education field. They go out and look for people, rather than just advertising.”

School Exec Connect will charge $16,900, with expenses not to exceed $2,500. MSBA would have charged between $8,000-$10,000.

Here’s how the search process will go with School Exec Connect:

• The company will meet with school leaders, school staff and the community to set up a profile of the type of superintendent wanted.

• School Exec Connect will draft a profile and start the search of who would fit that profile.

• Out of the list of candidates, five to eight will be chosen by School Exec Connect.

• Those candidates will meet the school board, which will narrow it down to the final three.

• The final three candidates will hold a community meet and greet at the high school. There, they will explain their qualifications and will take questions from the community.

That process can start within a week of contract approval. The organization says a replacement can be named in early May.

Nystrom said he was very impressed with the company.

“It’s not just their experience, it’s their passion,” he said. “They love what they do. They have a passion about education. They want to make sure we have the right fit.”

During the last superintendent search, the school board did not hire a firm. Nelson said she doesn’t recommend that route this time around, as only 11 people applied.

Nystrom agreed, noting that four candidates were “not impressive.”

In other school board news:

Approved a new law firm to represent the school board, as attorney Tom Fitzpatrick retired at the end of 2013. Selected out of a pool of 11 candidates was Fergus Falls business Pemberton Law Firm. Attorney Mike Rengel will be the primary contact for the school. Rengel will not attend every school board meeting, as has been tradition. More and more, Lund said, school districts do not have legal representation at every meeting.

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at