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Blackduck Interim superintendent interviews conducted

Members of the Blackduck School Board met May 15 to interview four candidates for Interim Superintendent. The meeting was open to the public, however no one in the could ask questions or make comments to the candidates during the interviews.

There were about 10 spectators throughout the four hours of interviews. Only about six stayed for the entire time. They were also allowed to stay after the last interview while the board discussed the outcome of the interviews.

The four candidates were men. All had the Minnesota licenses needed and the experience that the board wanted. All were asked the same questions by Board Chair Cynthia Nord.

No salary or benefits were discussed as it would be discussed when the position was offered. The position is to start on July 1. If the chosen candidate was not able to start on July 1 then Current Blackduck Supt. Bob Doetsch agreed to be hired to fill in a few days past July 1 to cover that time until the new hired person can start. Legally, the state can and would shut the school down if it does not have a superintendent.

First interviewed was Jim Oraskovitch or Mr. O as he likes to be called, since most kids have trouble with his name.

Oraskovitch grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota. He is married with two grown children. He feels that a superintendent should be very hands on. He said he would like to be involved with every aspect of the day to day business. Even though, he would delegate duties to his staff he wants to be aware of everything.

He feels when the budget is tight or needs to make hard decisions regarding cuts, he first would work with the staff to find where cuts could be made. He prefers to not cut staff if possible but also if left with no other choice can make those decisions.

He also would not want to cut programs and extra curricular activities as those many times keep students happy and healthy. Working together, he would make sure whatever is done, would best benefit the student most. He also wants to be visible in the community and make sure there is good strong communication with students, parents, staff, school board and the community. When asked why he would be the best candidate, he said he was happy and kind, but can deal with discipline issues if he needs to.

A brief break was taken between each candidate.

Randy Hanson is from Brainerd originally. He has worked in Nisswa and Pequot Lakes over the years. He has ties to Blackduck and Alvwood as his parents graduated from Blackduck school and they lived in Alvwood. Also, owning the store in Alvwood at one time.

He looks at the communication is more of a "trickle up" effect vs trickle down effect. He said he needs to input from all staff. From janitors to food service, bus drivers and teachers to make the school work smoothly and efficiently. He believes that every student can learn. Working on budget together with the business manager and staff they can find ways to work with the budget they have. He wants to create a positive, good environment for all at the school. School is the hub of a community.

"What we do effects the next generation," he said.

He would also be very visible in the community. When asked why he would be the best candidate he said that he feels that he could do the job well. He has a vested interest in this community with having family here but is he the missing piece of the school puzzle? He would like to be that if the board felt he was.

Wallace Schoeb has over 30 years of experience being a superintendent. In 2002, he retired but was contacted in 2007 by Walker/Hackensack/Akeley School District. He worked for them as superintendent for three years and had taken the last two years off for his wife's ill health. She is better now and when this position opened up he applied.

He feels that respect is the key to a smooth running school. Respect for the students, staff, parents, board members and the community. He likes to see activities that would encourage the parents and community members to get involved in school. When asked why he would be the best candidate, he said because of his years of experience, his level of knowledge and people skills. He would be accountable for the job he does. And he is a product of the "School of Hard Knocks"

Last to be interviewed was Donald Hainlen.

He feels that quality programs and parent involvement is important to a schools success. He too, mentioned that recognizing students and staff for doing the right thing is important for moral and would like to see the community also involved in that type of recognition. He feels that the superintendent needs to be seen in the community. He has had experience working in all aspects of the school.

He also, would involve many of the school staff before making decisions regarding changes that may need to be made to make the school's budget work.

When asked why he was the best candidate he listed three reasons, his passion for education, his enjoyment of the daily contact with students and his interest in learning himself.

After the last interview the board opened the meeting up to discussion of the four very well qualified candidates. The public observers as well as the board members very quickly the eliminated one candidate as they felt that even though he was more than qualified he was not a good fit for our small school and community.

They discussed the other three and narrowed it down to the top two -- Oraskovitch and Schoeb, who were pretty evenly liked and qualified. After further discussion, they took a verbal vote, all six board members were in agreement to make the offer to Oraskovitch, with Schoeb as a second choice if Mr. "O" declined the offer. With that the meeting was adjourned.

As they were getting ready to leave further discussion centered around Hanson.

They felt he would be a good high school principal candidate. They may contact him to apply after they post the position but first, they need to hire a superintendent.

When asked why they would not discuss the high school principal position posting now so it could be posted as soon as possible, the board members stated that they will have hold another meeting to discuss the posting of the high school principal position because it was not on this meetings agenda.

The high school principal position is not an immediate concern. The public told the board members that if they would address the hiring of a high school principal soon and not wait, it would calm a lot of concern and fears of the staff, students and parents. It was left at that.

Nord acknowledged Wednesday evening that the board had contacted Oraskovitch to offer him the interim position and he accepted the offer.