Superintendent search narrowed to 3 candidates

Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

Following two days of interviews, the New Prague Area School Board has pared its list of candidates for the vacant superintendent position to three.

On Tuesday evening, board members decided to offer second interviews to Larry Guggisberg, superintendent of the Roseau School District, Roger Graff, superintendent/high school principal of the Adrian School District, and Glen Chiodo, superintendent in the Park Rapids School District.

The three each had hour-long interviews with six of the seven members of the New Prague School Board (Tom Fadden was not able to attend). Following the last interview, board members reviewed their notes and comment sheets submitted by those in the attendance at the interviews, which were open to the public.

The three finalists will be interviewed on Monday, July 17. Candidates will be presented to different groups within the district in a series of hour-long meetings beginning at 7:30 a.m. at New Prague High School. Chiodo will meet with a group of teachers beginning at 7:30, then at 8:30 will meet with district administrators and at 9:30 with district support staff. After a lunch break, he will meet with a group of community members at 11 a.m. at the middle school, (8th grade commons room, use south door entrance), followed by an interview with the school board at noon.

Guggisberg and Graff will follow a similar schedule, beginning at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. respectively. Any changes to this schedule will be posted on the district’s web site.

On Thursday and Friday of this week, representatives of the school board and staff will tour the home districts of each of the candidates. Board members Dan Carlson and Jerry Walerius and Falcon Ridge principal Barb Wilson will visit Park Rapids and Roseau, while board members Don Dvorak, Bob Reed and Marty Beckius and staff member Krista Ingebrand will tour Adrian. They will visit the schools and talk with members of the community about the candidates and about the district and report back to the full board.

In addition to the three finalists, three other candidates were interviewed. They were Craig Hintz, deputy superintendent of Minneapolis Schools; Gary Nelson, superintendent of Medford schools, and Timothy Hoffman, assistant superintendent for secondary schools in Bellevue, NE.

During this week’s interviews, board members asked candidates a series of prepared questions. Among the highlights:

Glen Chiodo

• He has been superintendent in Park Rapids, in northern Minnesota, for three years. Prior to that he was superintendent at Renville County West and an administrator in Thief River Falls.

• As superintendent at Renville County West, he helped set in motion a plan for turning around a district that was $2 million in debt when he arrived.

• In Park Rapids, he has worked hard to build trust in a community where the schools did not have a lot of support. “We’ve had to work hard to bring things around financially and establish accountability.”

• Says the superintendent’s role is to serve as “hub of the whole piece, the liaison, the bridge to everything. The Superintendent must understand the culture of the community and bring everything together.”

• Believes in hiring administrators with “integrity, honesty and an ability to work with people.”

• Says he is good at bringing people together. “Based on what I know of this district, I fit this district very well. I have plenty of experience and have the credibility and the background you are looking for.”

Roger Graff

• Worked for 20 years as a teacher and coach in southwestern Minnesota. Served as assistant principal at Worthington High School and now is superintendent and high school principal in Adrian, in southwestern Minnesota, a district with approximately 640 students, 120 of them open enrollment students.

• Organized a $2.6 million building upgrade program which will extend the life of the buildings in the district.

• Believes a superintendent’s top priority is public relations. “I always believe education is about communication.”

• “I try to use people who have more expertise than I do to help with decisions.”

• Believes in hiring administrators who “look out for kids and supports staff, but holds them accountable.”

• “I’ve worn every single hat imaginable over the last three years in Adrian. I’ve learned from the ground up. I believe in letting people do their jobs and use common sense in leading a district.”

Larry Guggisberg

• He has been an administrator for 18 years in Roseau, in northern Minnesota, as an assistant principal, elementary principal and, for the last five years, as superintendent.

• He has successfully run two operating referenda and a bond referendum in his district.

• Has worked to maintain academic programs and activities in a district with declining enrollment.

• Describes himself as a visible leader with integrity and good character, active in the community.

• Believes in hiring administrators who have energy and an interest and passion for education.

• Views the New Prague position as a challenge. “I’ve been in Roseau for 18 years. I know the stakeholders and can make things happen in a short period of time there. I’d have to come in and do a lot of listening and learning, I can’t come in and expect to make a big, immediate impact here, but I think I can bring a lot of experience to your district.”

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