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3 finalists chosen for Brainerd superintendent position

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news Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

After two long nights of interviews with seven candidates to fill Brainerd Public Schools Superintendent Steve Razidlo’s shoes, the Brainerd School Board narrowed the list down to three.

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The finalists for the superintendent position are: Klint Willert, superintendent at Marshall Public Schools; Deidre Wells, superintendent of Inver Grove Heights Community Schools; and Ron Wilke, superintendent at La Crescent-Hokah Public Schools.

The three finalists made the cut by a 4-2 vote. Board members Reed Campbell and Sue Kern did not vote in favor.

Board Chairwoman Ruth Nelson liked Willert’s vision, said he had “great” processes in place on how to do things and really seemed engaged in the community.

Board member Bob Nystrom said Wells was “outstanding” and well-versed in education and said Wilke wore many hats, was active in the community, put technology in the school and was a delegator.

The board hosted its first round of interviews of candidates for the superintendent position Wednesday and the second round of interviews on Thursday.

The process is an effort to find a replacement for Razidlo, who announced his resignation effective at the end of the school year. He accepted a three-year contract as superintendent at The American International School in Vienna, Austria.

School Exec Connect, an Illinois-based firm that specializes in placing school leaders in districts, is heading the search for his replacement.

Board members interviewed Wilke, Wells, Chris Sonju, superintendent of Glencoe/Silver Lake schools and Chris Hines, deputy superintendent of Conroe Independent School District in Texas on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the board interviewed Willert, Scott Monson, superintendent at Morris Area Schools and Larry Guggisberg, superintendent of Roseau Community School.

More about the candidates interviewed Thursday:

• Scott Monson: He is in his ninth year as superintendent of the Morris Area Schools. Prior to that he was a principal in two school districts and a business education teacher for 10 years.

Monson led a summit of 11 surrounding districts to analyze how they can collaborate to improve opportunities for students. He passed operating levies and oversaw a $27 million construction program.

Monson said a superintendent must be comfortable to talk to people and work with groups, otherwise it would not be beneficial to the school district.

“A strong community will mean a strong school,” he said.

• Klint Willert is in his 10th year as superintendent at Marshall Public Schools. He began his career as an elementary school teacher. He introduced the Malcom Baldrige improvement model and linked it to the district’s strategic plan and key visions set forth. He also has passed operating levies, linked administrator pay to performance standards for school improvements and created an after school/extended school year for at-risk youth.

Willert said he is a good listener, active in the community and people feel comfortable approaching him. Willert said having good communication with the community, not just the parents, is important.

Willert said Marshall and Brainerd are similar as they are regional school districts.

“I would not hesitate to send my kids to the Brainerd School District,” said Willert. “The opportunities you have here for children, the sense of pride and the level of achievement has been noted and recognized here and it’s impressive.”

Willert said when a school district has a balanced budget, he still challenges the administration to see where they can trim. He said there always are ways to be better and to update programs.

• Larry Guggisberg, has been with the Roseau Community School for the past 25 years. He was a middle school teacher, a coach, an elementary school principal and the superintendent for the past 13 years. He also taught as an adjunct professor at Bemidji State University. Guggisberg led the Roseau district in receiving statewide recognition in the arts and an anti-bullying program.

Guggisberg said he does not shy away from challenges. Guggisberg said Roseau School had a 350-student decline in enrollment and he had to close two schools. He said the school board supported the closures. Guggisberg said he was able to close the schools without laying any teachers off. He said the finances at the school are in good shape because of the decisions made.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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