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Blackduck supt. search narrows - Board members unable to curb frustrations

Blackduck parent Brigitte Grundmeier shares a laugh with superintendent candidate Carl McCrory following his second interview. McCrory visited with many of the audience members and teachers who were in attendance. McCrory was the only candidate of the three called back who was still in the running at the end of the evening.1 / 2
Members of the Blackduck School Board interviewed the three superintendent candidates who were called back for a second interview. Board members thanked candidate Carl McCrory from Willmar.2 / 2

Bickering, sniping and downright nastiness came out in full force at the March 26 Blackduck School Board meeting in which the board met to reinterview three candidates for superintendent.

It seemed clear to the audience that from the very beginning of the meeting, the school board was divided and, to everyone's frustration, the meeting ended with a very tense mood and no new superintendent.

Board chair Cynthia Nord called the meeting to order, explaining to the more than 50 people who were in attendance, that they would be asked to leave the media center if anyone spoke out.

"This meeting is to interview the three superintendent candidates for a second time and the audience is not allowed to say anything even though these interviews are open to the public."

And so the interview with the first candidate began.

Daron Stender of Frazee, sat before the board and answered the list of questions the board had prepared. Questions such as what was the last book the candidate had read and why to questions on finances, budgeting and staff issues before the candidate was asked if there were any questions he had for the board.

Stender asked each member of the board how long they had been board members and when their terms were up. Of the six board members, four of them had terms expiring in November.

At the end of the interview, Stender thanked the board for calling him back and then visited during the break period with various members of the audience.

Next up was Carl McCrory from Willmar who brought in his wife and children, explaining first off that he had every intention of living in the community and that his children would be attending Blackduck Schools.

After his interview was concluded, another short break was held and he, too, sat and visited with parents, teachers and others in attendance.

The final candidate, Greg East, came from Sioux Falls, S.D. and said he had taken a tour around Blackduck to see what the town was like.

During his questioning, he told the board that he had 30 years experience in the school system but not currently employed.

As soon as his interview was concluded, East headed for the door without stopping to chat much with those in the audience.

Some audience members expressed shock as Chairman Nord started the discussion.

"I don't feel any of these three candidates are right for us," she said.

In response, former board chairman Dale Compton dropped his pencil on the table, his frustration apparent.

"Then why did we just waste our time, their time and taxpayer money it took to have this meeting if you had no intention of hiring any of them?"

Nord responded that she had concerns about all three candidates. I understand there were issues about Greg (East) and a lawyer in Breckinridge," she explained. "Allegations were made against him and this lawyer for being in 'cahoots' against the school district."

Nord also said that she thought his interview was good but that he wasn't familiar with Minnesota funding, however he seemed to be good with budgets and financial planning.

Board member Randy Lange said he liked East as did board member Grant Mistic. They both felt he had interviewed well.

Nord said another concern she had was that he did not spend a lot of time talking about kids. At that point, the board voted unanimously to take him out of the running for superintendent.

Next up for discussion was McCrory.

Compton said that he had called Oak Hills in Ohio where McCrory had previously worked and was unable to find anyone who had anything bad to say about him.

"I was told that he had been named State Superintendent of the Year in Ohio," said Compton. "I was also told that he was ambitious, a great communicator and his school had consistant high scores.

Lange and Mistic each voiced concerns that he had no experience in finance and had no understanding of state funding.

Nord said that he was good with the kids, good with communication but she took issue with the fact that he made no eye contact with her.

Compton said that he had had eye contact with him as did Sue Stroeing and Lange.

Mistic also brought up the fact that McCrory had no Minnesota state superintendent's license.

"I?spoke with the business manager in Ohio and was told that he had not had to make any cuts while he was at Oak Hills," said Nord. "He had lots of money to work with and therefore knows little of budgets and funding."

Lange and Compton both said that they had called Willmar where McCrory is currently employed and were told that they were extremely happy with him and that he had a five year contract on the table.

Mistic mentioned that one of the candidates has some data privacy issues that could not be discussed.

After more discussion, some of it tense at times, the board voted to put McCrory's application on hold, pending more background information being obtained.

Nord pointed out to Compton and Lange that McCrory had requested they not contact Willmar but Compton and Lange said they were not aware of that.

Board member Rachel Larson said she was not comfortable voting in favor of hiring McCrory as she hadn't had the opportunity to call Willmar and check on his for herself.

With fingers pointing, Compton told Larson that she should have done that prior to the meeting.

"You have had plenty of time to make those calls. You knew what we are here for and you didn't do your homework," said Compton.

Stender as the last to be discussed and it was brough to light that he had been bought out of a previous job to the tune of $377,000 plus he has had another job offer. The board also discussed the fact that Stender said that he would be pursuing his doctorate and that essentially, " you will have to pay for it," he said.

A motion was made and seconded to take Stender off the list as well, leaving only McCrory. Stender was taken off the list before a motion was made and seconded to offer McCrory the job as Blackduck's superintendent.

In a roll call vote, the board voted 3-3 and it was decided to postpone hiring until a later date.

At this time, Nord opened the floor up for audience participation.

"You had all these candidates,"?said former school board member Larry Zea, "six of them had experience! You called back three of them. I?don't think if Jesus Christ was one of your candidates that you would hire him! You are not going to find anyone who is that perfect for the job."

Following Zea, Dave Hentges stood up to address not just the board but everyone present.

"I?checked this week to see what the policy is to recall a school board member or impeach them and do you know what I found? We can't do a damn thing except vote them out! You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves,"?he said in a raised voice, "All of you!"

Blackduck teacher Jennifer Parker praised the school board saying that she understood what a tough job they had and that they did it well. She thanked them for all that they do for the district.

Teacher Sheena Reese asked the board if there was a time frame for hiring a new superintendent. At this point, they had no decisive answer.