District takes next step to find superintendent

Students from the Isanti Middle School/Minnesota Center pose with the school board during the school showcase portion of the Oct. 23 board meeting. The sign they are holding has the signatures of all of the students who took on “Rachel’s Challenge,” an initiative to promote positivity and non-violence that was started by the parents of a victim of the Columbine School shooting in 1999. The students decided to accept the challenge after hearing a presentation from the organization.

The Cambridge-Isanti school board took the next step in the selection process for finding a permanent superintendent by naming Peer Solutions to lead the search for Dr. Ray Queener’s replacement.

According to board chair Timothy Hitchings, the board did have a few options at their disposal. They could go with hiring a search firm at a cost ranging from approximately $12,000 to close to $20,000; they could perform an internal search utilizing school district staff, which could very well cost as much as hiring a search firm, or they could essentially invite the general public to meet with interim superintendent Dr. Nate Rudolph and consider their input into simply offering Rudolph the permanent position.

Almost immediately, the board eliminated the internal search method, citing not only the unknown cost but how it may overtax staff, along with potentially taking longer to accomplish. That method also may result in a much smaller pool of candidates to choose from.

While the board indicated their pleasure in the selection of Rudolph for the interim position, they were hesitant to go the route of meeting with the public with Rudolph as their only option.

“I don’t think two months (on the job) is a fair assessment of your time,” board member Nicole Johnson said.

At the same time, the board agreed that whichever method they choose, inviting feedback from the community and other district staff members will be a key component of the search process.

That left the board with the conclusion that despite the recent and possible future financial shortfalls the district has endured, the best choice was to swallow the bitter pill and pay a search firm to do a majority of the work.

“Having gone through this before, I think they (the search firm used before) did an excellent job of bringing us a pool of really good candidates,” board member Lynn Wedlund said. “Also, people who perhaps wouldn’t have applied to our district were invited to come and take a look at us.”

After further discussion, the motion was made to go with Peer Solutions to conduct the search for the district’s permanent superintendent. The reason for choosing them over the other two bids was that Peer Solutions offered the lowest bid at approximately $13,000, but also because they offered a two-tiered search process that the board found appealing.

In the first tier, which would cost $7,000, Peer Solutions would conduct a search among current district employees, including looking at Rudolph being named to the position permanently. If the board chooses to go through the second tier, at an approximate additional cost of $5,500, Peer Solutions would then conduct a full external search.

The board approved that motion unanimously, with board members Carri Levitski and Aaron Berg being absent from the meeting.

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