Pequot Lakes Superintendent Chris Lindholm will resign at the end of the fiscal year after accepting the superintendent position in the Cook County School District.
In a special meeting Monday, May 24, the Pequot Lakes School Board voted unanimously to accept Lindholm’s resignation, effective June 30.
Lindholm said he and his wife love the area around the North Shore so much that when the job was posted at the beginning of April, he did not hesitate.
"It's always been a dream position for myself and for my wife."
— Chris Lindholm
“It's always been a dream position for myself and for my wife,” Lindholm said. “We honeymooned there back in 1996. I was a finalist for the principal job in 2001 in Cook County but did not get the job, but we’ve just always had our eyes on the North Shore. There's only three to four superintendent positions on the North Shore, so when they open up, if you're serious about it, you have to jump on it.”
The Cook County School District serves roughly 500 students, but covers an area in northeastern Minnesota of roughly 3,800 miles.
“It's a long haul,” Lindholm said. “There are numerous small communities … It also includes the Grand Portage reservation, which I'm extremely excited to be working with and to be a part of that community.”
“There is an incredibly strong, highly educated arts community up in Cook County,” Lindholm said. “Theater, visual arts, pottery - the whole mix of art is really robust, and that is something I’m really excited about.”
Lindholm has served as Pequot Lakes superintendent since July 2013. He previously served as assistant superintendent of the Burnsville-Eagan Savage district. His wife, Kristin, teaches in the Pine River-Backus School District.
In his time with the Pequot Lakes District, Lindholm looks to the strategic plan adopted in 2014 as one of the key achievements of his tenure.
“Look where we were in 2014 and where we are now in 2021. We have accomplished the vast majority of that, or at least moved the needle on a vast majority of that,” Lindholm said. “It feels good when you say we are going to do this and then you actually get it done. That is what leadership is all about.”
He also celebrates the district’s embrace of technology-based learning, which came in handy on several occasions over the past year.
“We have a technology device for learning in the hands of every single student and I think back to eight years ago, our teachers and staff were struggling with how to use Gmail,” he said. “Today, that is just the air we breathe and we use Schoology and we have these new platforms that are designed to help us prioritize learning. I’m really proud of those big steps.”
Lindholm recently drew the ire of some residents after a video he narrated was posted online. The video discussed inclusivity but questioned how welcoming the community is to diversity. However, he said that issue did not play into his decision to apply for the Cook County job.
“Frankly, I get an email every time there is an opening in Minnesota, as does every superintendent in the state,” Lindholm said. “The optics do look kind of bizarre, but I don’t know how to say it other than it was a complete coincidence. It has been our dream for our entire marriage and I decided to take a shot at it.”
"I'm going to miss a ton of people. There are a lot of wonderful people that live here and invest heavily in trying to make this community even better and I'm going to miss those people - the Rotarians, the economic development folks, the people at the Pequot Lakes chamber. There are people in all of the different cities that we work with, and our friends at the county - just really good people that are here to serve the public. They have been very positive and very supportive."
— Chris Lindholm
Despite ending his tenure in Pequot Lakes on a somewhat sour note, Lindholm said the overwhelming majority of his interactions with the community over the past eight years have been very positive.
“I'm going to miss a ton of people,” Lindholm said. “There are a lot of wonderful people that live here and invest heavily in trying to make this community even better and I'm going to miss those people - the Rotarians, the economic development folks, the people at the Pequot Lakes chamber. There are people in all of the different cities that we work with, and our friends at the county - just really good people that are here to serve the public. They have been very positive and very supportive.”
Lindholm also said he would miss working with Sourcewell as a regional cooperative, praising that organization's efforts for local students and staff.
“There are nine regions in Minnesota, so every school district lives in a region where there is a regional co-op,” Lindholm said. “In Region Five, that happens to be Sourcewell. Sourcewell is by far the most robust and supportive of the nine regions, by far. I'm going to miss that support, because it benefits our kids and our staff so immensely.”
At Monday's school board meeting, board members took turns thanking Lindholm for his service to the district over the past eight years.
“Thank you for your time and energy,” board chair Kim Bolz-Andolshek said. “You have been a part of our community for eight years, and I think we are all very grateful. I don’t think most people realize the commitment it takes to be a superintendent in any district … We may not always see eye-to-eye, but we always get work done. I appreciate all the work you have put in and I wish you the best.”
The board agreed on the hiring process for an interim superintendent, which Bolz-Andolshek said would be a months-long endeavor. She said the Minnesota School Board Association suggested hiring an interim superintendent as most candidates for full-time positions are likely already hired with just over a month left before the new fiscal year.
“Typically, an interim superintendent is either someone at the end of their career or maybe have retired but like to do one-year stints for districts in transitions,” Bolz-Andolshek said. “It would truly be a year to transition us out so we can then resume a full search.”
She said the search for a new superintendent would then resume in the fall, but the MSBA suggests beginning the search in November, December or January and then finalizing a hire by April.
The board hopes to have an interim superintendent hired by Monday, June 7.
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.