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Still no superintendent for Blackduck

Residents crowded into the Blackduck High School media center April 3 to voice their opinions, ask questions and hear what the Blackduck School Board would be doing concerning a new superintendent. The district will be without a superintendent when current superintendent Bob Doetsch retires at the end of the school year if the board can't come to an agreement on who would be best for the job.

For the second time in less than a week, the Blackduck School Board met to discuss the hiring of a new superintendent. Joining them in the high school media center April 3 were almost 100 residents, teachers and parents.

The meeting began with public participation and comments ranged from the previous meeting to enrollment numbers to the new superintendent that has yet to be hired.

Jim Templin stood and read his prepared statement, expressing his frustration with the decision making of board members Dale Compton, Sue Stroeing and Randy Lange.

"I am frustrated with the disrespect for our teachers, staff and other board members," he began. "Don't lash out at other board members for wanting to take their time by saying they are wasting taxpayer money when you, yourself, violated open meeting laws."

He also expressed his frustration over the fact that "Dale, Sue and Randy refused to take the recommendation of some of the school's highly educated staff."

Sonja Juelson stood up and asked why the school was losing 25 students a year.

Lange replied that there were no jobs around and that people aren't living here anymore.

"It's all about economics," he said.

Board member Rachel Larson explained her views by saying that people weren't having as many kids as they used to and she felt that was one of the reasons for losing students.

Board chair Cynthia Nord went on to explain that in the past five years, the school district has only lost 30 students.

Lange came under fire when it was stated that he had made the comment in a restaurant that he felt teachers were overpaid and under worked.

He explained to the audience that the statement he had made was in reference to a referendum.

"You have to look at everything," he said. "I asked to give the teachers a raise. I fought for it and I fought hard!"

Bill Rabe questioned why the board felt they were smarter than the educated staff who was making recommendations to which Dave Hentges replied,

"Education does not constitute intelligence!"

Hentges also said that he didn't think the problem was with the board.

"The truth is easy to remember but a lie is hard to remember."

Former board member Larry Zea spoke to the group about enrollment having gone down dramatically over the past 35 years and said that he knew of at least 40 kids in his area who were home schooled.

Talk turned back to the lone superintendent candidate, Carl McCrory with questions being asked about where he had worked and had anyone contacted his former school to ask about him.

Questions arose concerning the fact that McCrory does not have a Minnesota superintendent's license nor does he have a Minnesota teaching license.

Compton said that he, Lange and Stroeing had gone down to Willmar to the school where McCrory is currently employed and started a firestorm of questions regarding the trip.

Larson said she wasn't aware of any illegal meeting.

"It's not right that only three board members went and not all of us."

Nord said it has to be posted to do a site visit. Members of the audience brought up the fact that they violated the state's open meeting law by doing the site visit.

According to the Minnesota School Boards Association, a meeting of fewer than a quorum is not covered by the open meeting law.

A quorum is a majority of the members of the board or half of the board plus one. For most school board, a quorum is four as most school boards have six or seven members.

Compton denied breaking the open meeting law and the meeting was once again turned back to the superintendent license when Tricia Nord asked the board how long it takes to get the license.

It was explained that a candidate is given two years to complete the classes needed. According to Chairman Nord, McCrory needs seven classes or 16 credits. She also said that she had spoken with Stan Mack at the Minnesota Department of Education and that he felt that someone would be ineffective as a superintendent without the license.

Marla Savich asked if current Blackduck Supt. Bob Doetsch had a superintendent's license when he was hired. The answer was yes, he did.

Doetsch was originally hired as the elementary principal.

The criteria for superintendent came into play because one of that criteria was that the candidate must have a superintendent's license.

"Why was McCrory give a second interview when your criteria was that he was to have a Minnesota license?" asked Laura Wood. "Why not use the same criteria for everyone?"

"I think we have a give and take here," said Larson. "We are between a rock and a hard spot. We are not a training school."

The idea was thrown out that maybe it would be best if the district hired an interim superintendent for a year or two, got things on track and then take the time to hire someone.

"Does anyone have any idea why this guy without a license made it to the last?" asked Hentges.

Board member Grant Mistic said that McCrory never bothered to find out what he would need to get his Minnesota license.

Claire Frenzel stood up and asked each boardmember to give a pro and a con for McCrory. Compton, Stroeing and Lange all said that they had no cons against him while Nord reiterated again that McCrory had no Minnesota license and Mistic said he had no Title I grant writing experience and had no knowledge of state funding. Larson also cited his lack of state funding knowledge as a con.

Blackduck School employee Jo Lange spoke up and said that she had looked at the bottom of McCrory's application to see when they could call Willmar and said that it didn't say that they had to wait until he was a finalist.

At this point, it was pointed out that she had violated the data privacy law to which she replied, "Whatever. I am just gonna say it. You can fire me if you have to but it said that you could wait until it looked like it would be a possibility that he was going to be a finalist."

She was questioned as to why she looked at his application and who gave her the right and permission to look at his application.

"I guess I just took the right myself," she answered. She went on to say that it was an honest mistake that she had made and that they could fire her if they wanted to but that it was just a mistake.

More arguing took place between Lange and members of the audience as to whether she had the right to do what she did and then between audience members themselves before Frenzel stood up and said she had had enough.

"That's enough," she said. "Shame on all of you and I am going to speak out of turn because I have had enough. Every single person in here -- this is absolutely disgraceful. We are adults."

Frenzel said that she was appalled and embarrassed by several of those in the room regarding their actions and comments.

"I love this community! I didn't grow up here, I moved here. Look at all this passion in this room! Why can't that be turned into something positive where we can grow and become a thriving community that is focused on kids."

She apologized as she finished and sat down but not before the room broke into applause for her and what she had said.

Al Hentges asked the board that if McCrory had done so well in his interviews and has two years experience, what was the problem?

"He must have something. If you want to get this back on track, get someone new in the superintendent's chair."

Nord read the answers to some questions that Vernlund had asked at the two schools that McCrory had been at and was still at.

Board member Lange asked to bring him back in to sit down and work out their differences but Larson said she felt it would be better to hire an interim from outside the district then when he gets his license, talk with him again. Mistic agreed.

Lange said that he had other offers on the table.

"He just came back from Ohio where he was at his old school. They want him back and the school he is at now is offering him a three year contract."

Nord questioned McCrory's integrity because he had e-mailed three of the board's six members and not all of them.

Before the meeting ended, a motion was made and seconded to have McCrory come back and sit down to talk with the board. Nord said she felt it would be better if Vernlund called him and asked him to come back. The others agreed and the meeting was adjourned.