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What should the next superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools be like?

School Exec Connect consultants Bob Ostlund, left, and Patty Phillips, right, listen to a handful of people at a public input meeting that will help craft a "New Superintendent Profile" for Bemidji Area Schools. Current Superintendent Jim Hess announced his retirement in August. (Joe Bowen | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—A handful of Bemidji Area Schools teachers and parents huddled up Monday night to talk about the school district and what they'd like its new superintendent to bring there.

A pair of consultants from School Exec Connect spent a marathon day speaking with selections of parents; students; building and upper-level administrators; teachers; staff; School Board members; and other community leaders as they work to put together a profile of the district's new superintendent. They'll present that profile to the School Board later this month, and board members can measure applicants against it. Candidates can also use information gleaned from those meetings to learn more about the district to which they're applying.

The consultants' apparent last meeting of the day was with a handful of district educators and parents at a catchall meeting for the public.

There, attendees said they hope the district comes up with creative ways to teach students, especially those with disruptive home lives.

Bemidji Area Schools' strengths, they generally agreed, included its music programming, staff, families and facilities. Another said she likes the district's career academies, which aim to help students sample post-graduation employment options.

One attendee—an elementary teacher—said she hoped to see more technology in the district. She and another educator here lamented dwindling staff levels in some areas.

Attendees said they hoped the new superintendent is innovative, approachable to staff and administrators and stays grounded in the day-to-day work of the district. They'd like board members to ask candidates about their experience working with poor or truant students, how they might make connections with nearby BSU, how supportive they'd be of the arts and what they'd do to boost morale in the school district.

Anyone else who wants to tell the consultants about goals, strengths, and challenges they see at Bemidji Area Schools; what they'd like to see in its next superintendent; and what they'd like board members to ask applicants can fill out an online survey at bemidji.k12.mn.us

School Exec Connect staff are scheduled to present their findings and to the board at a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

They'll then present five to seven candidates to the board April 13, and the board will interview them all in a marathon series of meetings the following day and narrow the field to two to three finalists.

The finalists, then, will spend a day each at Bemidji Area Schools speaking with community members, staff, and students before interviewing with board members a second time. The board will then narrow their choice to one candidate and negotiate an employment contract with him or her.

Board members are expected to approve that contract at a meeting in May, and the new superintendent would formally start July 1.

The new hire will replace Jim Hess, who's lead Bemidji Area Schools for for more than a decade and announced his retirement in August. Board members voted to hire School Exec Connect in December.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

(218) 333-9798
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