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Paynesville Press - September 24, 2002

School starts search for next superintendent

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School District will have a new superintendent next year, and the search has just started for a replacement for current superintendent Howard Caldwell, who will retire from the school district at the end of this school year.

For the superintendent selection, the school board has established a search committee – comprised by board members Mark Dingmann, Deb Glenz, and Allen Schmidt – and identified a process for the search.

The committee is examining candidates on staff first to decide if an internal candidate is qualified and able to do the job. The committee will bring its recommendation back to the board, hopefully in October, so the full board can decide either to hire internally or open the search to outside candidates.

school board phone numbers If the school district solicits outside candidates, it could take a few months to advertise, examine resumes, check on backgrounds, and interview the top candidates, with the board likely making a final decision on hiring after Christmas. Anyone with questions, concerns, or ideas for the superintendent search is urged to contact a member of the board's search committee: Dingmann, Glenz, or Schmidt. (See box at right.)

All three school principals have their superintendent licensure, but neither high school principal John Janotta nor principal on special assignment Deb Gillman expressed any interest to the school board in becoming the next superintendent.

Only elementary principal Todd Burlingame, who is in his fifth year in the district, expressed interest in the superintendent position. He and the committee have met to discuss the position and its requirements, as well as issues facing the district.

Issues facing the district, according to the search committee, include declining enrollment (which reduces the amount of state aid the district receives on a per pupil basis); the current budget crunch; competing in the competitive school market; maintaining a quality staff as teachers retire and replacements need to be hired; and communicating with staff, students, and the public.

The committee members said they hope to hire a new superintendent who intends to stay in Paynesville for a few years, not use the position as a springboard to a larger district.

They also think the district needs someone who will be able to think outside the box. "It's not business as usual anymore," said Schmidt. "We have to be innovative, and we have to sell our school."

"We need someone who is not only aware of (alternative programs) but has the desire and willingness to pull other people in that direction," said Glenz. "You can't push the cart; you have to pull."

The school superintendent is not only the leader of the school district – which has over 150 employees, 1,100 students, and an annual budget of $10 million – but a leader in the community. "It's a huge job," said Glenz. "That's why it's so important to get the right person."

Having a strong school system is important to the entire community, said Dingmann. "If you do not have a good school system…you're not going to attract young families," he explained. "If you do not attract young families, then (your businesses and) your community is going to suffer."

Caldwell has served as superintendent in Paynesville since July 1989, when he came to Paynesville from Norwood. He had previously been the superintendent in the Butterfield-Odin School District.

Caldwell – who attended Danube High School, earned his undergraduate degree from St. Cloud State, and earned a master's degree from Mankato State – started his education career in 1969, teaching math and science. In 35 years since then, he has been a teacher, principal, and superintendent in a half dozen communities in Minnesota.

Caldwell has announced his intention to retire at the end of this school year in June 2004.

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