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School Board offers superintendent job to Hahn

Hahn, current assistant superintendent for Brainerd Public Schools, has not yet accepted the position.

School Board members discuss around a table in the boardroom
Brainerd School Board Chair Ruth Nelson, center, speaks Thursday night, April 14, 2022, as board members deliberate who to choose as the next superintendent of Brainerd Public Schools.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — After more than three hours of deliberation, Brainerd School Board members voted 4-2 in the early hours of Friday, April 15, to offer the superintendent job to Heidi Hahn.

But Hahn, current assistant superintendent for Brainerd Public Schools, has not yet accepted the position.

When Board Chair Ruth Nelson called Hahn to tell her the news, Hahn said she would have to think about it, as the district deserves a leader that the whole board can get behind.

Headshot of Heidi Hahn
Assistant Superintendent Heidi Hahn

Hahn's comments come after Thursday night's livestreamed meeting saw board members debate between her and Eric Schneider, with Tom Haglin, Kevin Boyles and Nelson originally advocating for Schneider. Nelson ultimately voted for Hahn, as she said the other three board members — Jana Shogren, Charles Black Lance and Sarah Speer — made it clear they would have trust issues with hiring Schneider.

The trust issues outlined by board members appear to arise from Schneider's resignation from the Minnetonka School District, where he served as an associate superintendent until 2020. Schneider resigned during a closed session of the Minnetonka School Board.

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Headshot of Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider

Specific details of the resignation were unavailable Thursday night, but members referenced Schneider's work as a consultant for other school districts during his associate superintendent service as a contributing factor. Schneider previously told the School Board his contract allowed this work.

Brainerd School Board members deliberated late into the night between two superintendent candidates Thursday, April 14.

After interviewing Hahn, Schneider and Karsten Anderson this week, board members sat gridlocked Thursday night between Hahn and Schneider.

Schneider is the chief academic officer for Chicago-based education company EdIncites.

Three board members advocated for each candidate, with Haglin, Nelson and Boyles lobbying for Schneider, while Black Lance, Shogren and Speer opted for Hahn.

Haglin spoke highly of Schneider’s vision and how his innovation could catapult the district into a bright future, moving Brainerd from good to great.

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Charles Black Lance spoke highly of trust, noting he knows students, staff and — he himself — trust Hahn but did not feel he got to that point with Schneider.

Haglin and Nelson both noted Schneider’s eagerness to increase enrollment and felt he could do that, while Black Lance said he felt Hahn was the more student-centered candidate.

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Haglin, Boyles and Nelson also spoke of Schneider and Hahn working together — with Hahn continuing in her current position as assistant superintendent — as a dynamic duo. Hahn’s connections in the district paired with Schneider’s visionary leadership could take the district far, they said.

Black Lance, Shogren and Speer spoke of Hahn’s establishment in the district and the connections she has made and trust she has earned over her 26 years in the district. During his interview, Schneider said one thing he wished he could have if hired was a head start on his work in Brainerd. Hahn already has that head start, Shogren said.

While bringing in someone with new ideas comes with risks, Boyles said he also feared continuing on at the status quo — not that Hahn would necessarily be that kind of a leader, he said, but even if a new person is uncomfortable, that’s often where the most growth comes from.

Nelson said at the beginning of deliberations she could likely be swayed to vote for Hahn, as they were very close in her calculations. Boyles said if Hahn ended up being the choice, he would be behind her 100%.

Board members began deliberations just before 9 p.m. Check BrainerdDispatch.com for updates on the superintendent selection.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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