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What about Bob? Bob Gross tapped for interim ISD 181 superintendent

The Brainerd School Board completed its search for an interim superintendent and recommended a familiar face for the post. The Brainerd School Board met Wednesday as Personnel Committee and approved a unanimous recommendation for Bob Gross for th...

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The Brainerd School Board met Wednesday as Personnel Committee and approved a unanimous recommendation for Bob Gross for the interim superintendent position.

The Brainerd School Board completed its search for an interim superintendent and recommended a familiar face for the post.

The Brainerd School Board met Wednesday as Personnel Committee and approved a unanimous recommendation for Bob Gross for the interim superintendent position.

At a May 19 meeting, the school board approved a motion to post a job listing for an interim superintendent.

Board member Bob Nystrom said they received 10 applications for the position. The search committee reviewing the applications consisted of: Sue Kern, board member; Steve Lund, the district's business manager; Tim Murtha, director of curriculum; and Nystrom. They also sent the resumes to Charlie Kyte, consultant with School Exec Connect, who recommended two candidates for consideration.

School Exec Connect helped the school board in its search to find Klint Willert, who recently submitted his resignation as Brainerd's superintendent, and offered to assist with the search for an interim candidate. The search committee added two more candidates for consideration, for a total of four.

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The four finalists under consideration were Gross, Christine Weymouth, David Vick and Lowell Haagenson.

Nystrom said they interviewed two of the candidates on Monday and the other two on Tuesday, all over the phone. The committee provided no notice to the Brainerd Dispatch regarding the time or location of the interviews and only the search committee of Nystrom, Kern, Lund and Murtha was present for the interviews.

Mark Anfinson, a Twin Cities attorney specializing in open meeting law, told the Dispatch Wednesday because the job search committee was an ad hoc, or temporary committee, the interviews did not have to be open to the public.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals, ruling on the 1993 case Sovereign vs. Dunn, determined advisory, or temporary committees, weren't subject to open meeting law, Anfinson said.

"If the committee didn't have final decision-making authority, it wasn't subject to the open meeting law," Anfinson said.

If an ad hoc committee doesn't have a quorum of members of the public body, it's in a "twilight zone" regarding open meeting laws, Anfinson said.

"We were just picking a one-year interim," Nystrom told the Dispatch Wednesday. "If this had been a permanent position, it certainly would have been open."

The board wasn't intentionally trying to close the interview process, Nystrom said.

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"We weren't trying to do anything mischievous or anything," Nystrom said.

During Wednesday's meeting, Nystrom said Gross is very familiar with the district, as he's worked in the district for 31 years, 18 of those as superintendent.

It was important for the candidate for the interim position to know it wasn't permanent and would only last for one year, Nystrom said. Gross' familiarity with the district also means a transition could be as "seamless as possible," he said.

Nystrom also touted Gross's 15 years of experience in international schools in foreign countries.

Gross's bonafides stood out compared to the other three candidates, Kern said.

"Bob Gross is certainly the most qualified, has the most experience," Kern said. "He has the familiarity of Brainerd that the other candidates did not have."

Kern mentioned how Gross is passing up a job opportunity in Puerto Rico in order to take the interim superintendent position.

It was important for the interim superintendent candidate to be forward-thinking, Lund said. An active candidate would be able to help continue the work district staff is doing to improve the educational experience.

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"We want to make sure we're going to find that right person that's going to come in and create stability and continue to do things over the next year that will keep moving us forward," Lund said.

In addition to moving the district forward in the coming year, Gross will also help the board in its search for a permanent superintendent, Lund said.

Board member Reed Campbell said he spoke with Gross a month ago, and he was "excited" about the prospect of Gross taking the position.

"Anyone who he hired or worked under him has so much respect for the man," Campbell said. "It's going to calm things down for the community and for our district."

Three or four of the 10 candidates were hoping the interim position would work as a trial run for the permanent position, Nystrom said, and might lead to the permanent appointment. Those candidates might still apply for the permanent position when it's posted later this year, he said.

Board member Ruth Nelson said having Gross as an interim superintendent will ensure the district can move forward next year and not remain at a standstill.

Willert will serve as the superintendent for the Brookings School District in South Dakota starting July 1. He has served as the superintendent of Brainerd Public Schools since July 2014.

Now, the board at its upcoming Monday meeting will consider the recommendation and take action on a motion to offer Gross the position.

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

Brainerd School Board member Bob Nystrom (orange shirt) addresses the board's personnel committee during a meeting Wednesday. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)
Brainerd School Board member Bob Nystrom (orange shirt) addresses the board's personnel committee during a meeting Wednesday. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)

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