Search begins for new superintendent

by April Scheinoha

    The Thief River Falls School Board has approved an agreement with a consulting firm to search for the next district superintendent. The agreement was approved at a special meeting Monday, March 7.
    BKB Associates of Mankato will be paid $7,500. It will also be reimbursed for expenses such as mileage and lodging. The contract stipulates that the school district will pay directly for advertising costs, candidate travel and candidate lodging.
    The next superintendent will succeed Laine Larson. She resigned effective June 30 to accept a similar position in Brainerd. Larson has been employed by the district since 2009.
    Jerry Robicheau, former Thief River Falls superintendent, is an associate with BKB Associates. Chairman Mike Spears noted the district chose BKB's proposal over others due to Robicheau's familarity with the district, the firm’s past experience and the cost.
    Robicheau met with district principals and District Service Center staff prior to obtaining the contract. Robicheau planned to talk with school board members via phone within the next two weeks regarding what expectations they have of a superintendent, what leadership characteristics they expect in a superintendent and what challenges they anticipate the next superintendent will face. He hoped to ask the same questions of teaching and nonlicensed staff as well as community members.
    Robicheau encouraged the district to form three committees for the superintendent search – a school board committee, a staff/administrator/student committee, and a parent/community committee. All three would interview the semifinalists. School board members would rank the semifinalists while the other two committees would provide input on the strengths and weaknesses of the semifinalists.
    “We need somebody that’s a people person to be a leader to inspire people to do the jobs they're already doing,” Spears said.
    Robicheau's proposed timeline calls for an application deadline of April 15. BKB would screen applicants and do background and reference checks. He would then present a list of candidates for the board's consideration. Robicheau suggested that the board interview semifinalists and then narrow down that list for secondary interviews with the finalists.
    Robicheau expected that finalist interviews and site visits would occur May 2-6. The final number of semifinalists and finalists, as well as the final decision, would be up to the school board. By the middle of May, he noted, the district would hopefully have a person in mind for the position.
    Robicheau told board members that it is the most important decision they will make. He said they are not only hiring a superintendent but a community leader who should be a cheerleader of not only the students but the whole community.
    In the midst of the meeting, Treasurer Kevin Ballard asked to take a break, so he could confer with Spears and Larson. The three of them met for about five minutes outside of the board room. After they returned to the board room, Ballard said he wanted to ask the position’s base salary.
    Robicheau replied that it would be up to the board, but the position would be posted as having a “regionally competitive salary.”