St. Peter High School

(Herald file photo)

Monday’s St. Peter School Board meeting made one thing clear: hiring a new superintendent for the district is the top priority.

In a mind map exercise led by interim Superintendent Jeff Olson, School Board members were invited to propose “big ideas” to be enacted in the following year. These proposals were graphed and board members chose the top three initiatives they wished to see executed.

Of the initiatives proposed, hiring a new superintendent received the most support with six board members labeling it as a top priority.

“Hiring a new superintendent eclipses all other decisions.” said School Board member Duke Dixon. “If you hire an excellent superintendent, everything works out better.”

School Board member Mark Karlsrud spoke on the next steps in the search.

“We will start with a timeline and walk it backward. We will be searching for candidates with the assistance of the Minnesota School Board Association, Region Nine and private organizations. After we have met with the candidates, the School Board will make a selection.”

Dixon expressed confidence that the search for a new superintendent would be successful.

“Superintendent Olson is well-connected with lots of experience. It’s a great scenario for us.”

Another key initiative considered by the board was holding a referendum in 2020. The group listed it as a high priority, knowing that new funding is likely to be needed for years to come.

“It’s important for the financial stability of the district that we hold a referendum …” Karlsrud said. “A referendum has a very specific timeline, so we need to plan certain components at specific times.”

Leadership development for teachers, principals and administrators is also a top priority for the School Board.

“You need to maintain a focus on every level: teachers, principals, the business office …” Karlsrud said. “You need to get the right people in the right place, not just check off a box, but get people who can do it well.”

Karlsrud added that interim Superintendent Olson’s experience would make this year optimal for leadership development.

“For them, it’s like taking a master’s course from the administrator himself,” Karlsrud said.

A proposal to forge relationships with the county to solve issues related to daycare and housing also received some support, as did goals to narrow the achievement gap between white students and students of color and to help as many as 80% of students to meet MCA benchmarks.

Initiatives that did not meet top priority status include community engagement, plans to continue to strengthen current successes and transition planning for the next School Board election this fall.

Karlsrud stressed that goals that did not receive priority status would not be ignored.

“They don’t go away … Everything that’s on the board will be used to hold the board and the superintendent accountable to our stated goals. None of those things will go away … they and other initiatives that were not mentioned will be brought up continually throughout the year. We aren’t focusing on just three things.”

A closed-door evaluation of Superintendent Paul Peterson, who is leaving the district at the start of July, was held prior to the mind map exercise. A public summary of the board’s conclusions will become available at a later date.

The next School Board meeting will take place on June 17.

Reach Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8567 or follow him on Twitter @EditorPhilipWeyhe.

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Northfield News and Faribault Daily News reporter. Email at Call at 507-333-3132.

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