District 286 restarts search for top job hire

The Brooklyn Center School Board is heading back to the drawing board to hire a new superintendent. The board conducted two sets of interviews, first with five finalists and then with three, earlier this month but did not find a candidate who met the criteria for the position.

“While the candidates all had skills, they all had some things that weren’t the experiences we were looking for,” said School Board Chair Cheryl Jechorek.

The three finalists interviewed during the second round Nov. 8 were Jean Broadwater, superintendent of Houston Public Schools (Houston, Minn.); Jacqueline Johnston, director of Alternative and Community Education, East Carver County Schools; and Kevin Wellen, superintendent of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Public Schools.

Jechorek said the board ideally would like to hire a new superintendent with experience working in an urban area school district.

The board received 15 applications for the position.

Kathleen Mortensen, director of Brooklyn Center Academy and associate principal of Brooklyn Center Middle and High Schools, and Joseph Brown, superintendent of Fairmont Area School District, were not selected out of the initial five finalists for the second round of interviews.

Sandy Gundlach, director of school board services for the Minnesota School Boards Association, said there are times when a district does not find the ideal candidate for a job from a group of applicants. “It does happen,” she said. “It’s a big decision and everyone wants a good fit,” Gundlach, who is assisting the board with the superintendent search process, said.

Overall, Jechorek said the board hoped more people would have applied for the position this fall.

The timing of their search process may have influenced the applicant count, she said. School district employees’ contracts extend through June 30 of each year, Jechorek said.

The school board planned to hire a new superintendent at the beginning of the New Year if they were available, or effective after June 30, 2013, if the candidate is under contract.

Current Supt. Keith Lester, who is retiring, is working on an interim basis until a replacement is hired.

The board will discuss the hiring criteria and timeline at its 6:30 p.m. work session Monday, Nov. 26, and then start the application process again, Jechorek said.

“We’re all kind of feeling a little deflated right now. It was a lot of time involved,” Jechorek said. “But I still think it was the best decision,” she said.

Gundlach will meet with the board again as well, she said.

“I’ll visit with the board and go back to the beginning, but not quite so far back,” she said.