By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN After reviewing all applications for the superintendent position, Lester Prairie School Board determined the best candidate is the one who already wears Bulldog colors.
During a special meeting March 17, a panel interviewed Lester Prairie Principal Jeremy Schmidt for the superintendent position. He was the only candidate interviewed.
Current Superintendent Mike McNulty has resigned, effective June 30.
The interview panel, which included all six board members, teachers Mike Bjork and Ryan James, and Business Manager Alice Daak, asked Schmidt 10 prepared questions, as well as several follow-up questions.
When the interview portion of the meeting was complete, the board excused Schmidt and began deliberation.
Board Chair Karla Heigl began by presenting a summary of how the board arrived at that point.
She said when McNulty submitted his verbal resignation, the board posted the superintendent position for two weeks.
During that period, 18 applications were received.
The administrative committee, which consists of Heigl and board members Steve Ziermann and Corbey Hentges, reviewed the applications, as did Daak, because of her business management experience.
After reviewing the candidates, the administrative committee met to discuss options.
Heigl said very few of the applicants had superintendent experience. Of those that did, one had none in Minnesota, and another had only worked in private schools.
“Based on the applications we received, we felt that with Jeremy’s advantage of being an internal candidate, and the positive things that brings with it, that we would proceed with the interview of Mr. Schmidt,” Heigl said.
She then asked members of the panel to share their thoughts on the interview.
Schmidt’s involvement in the community is something on which nearly all board members commented.
During the interview, Schmidt described the things he has done to become involved in the community.
He stressed the importance of this involvement, and said as superintendent his goal would be to become “the face of Lester Prairie.”
This comment resonated with the board.
Panel members also like the fact that, although Schmidt does not live in the district, his son is a student at Lester Prairie, and Schmidt said he also plans to send his daughter to Lester Prairie.
It was noted some previous superintendents have not enrolled their students in Lester Prairie Schools, and board members questioned the message this sends to the community.
Staff members expressed appreciation for Schmidt’s leadership style. It was noted he is flexible, willing to listen, but has no problem saying “no” when necessary.
Even when there is disagreement, staff members said Schmidt handles things in a professional, tactful manner.
Panel members also liked the fact that Schmidt accepts responsibility for his actions, and holds others accountable, as well.
It was also noted Schmidt is visible and approachable, both by staff and parents.
Schmidt was hired as principal in 2012, and his experience is something the board values.
One board member noted Schmidt knows the staff and the facility, so he won’t need to learn about those things while learning the superintendent job.
Another board member said Schmidt knows all the students by name, and has earned the respect of the school staff.
Schmidt mentioned more than once during the interview that he is committed to maintaining the district’s financial stability, and the panel seemed to appreciate that.
Board members also noted Schmidt understands and shares the board’s goals.
Schmidt’s background in sales was also mentioned. Board members expressed the opinion that Schmidt will be a strong advocate for the school, and will be able to “sell” the school in the community and beyond.
The board unanimously voted to offer the superintendent job to Schmidt, pending successful negotiation of a contract.
If Schmidt accepts the position, he will begin his new role July 1.
Schmidt does not have his superintendent certification, but expects to get it by Aug. 5.
Heigl noted some previous superintendents, including McNulty and Joe Miller, did not have their superintendent certification when hired, but the district was able to get an exemption until they received certification.
Heigl said she expected to have a draft contract ready to present by the end of last week.
The board will also begin the process of filling the principal position to replace Schmidt if he accepts the superintendent job.