Befitting of a former collegiate diver, new North Branch Area Public Schools Superintendent Sara Paul has plunged right into the deep end of her new position. Even before her first official day on July 1, Paul has been actively participating in planning meetings for the three different scenarios that schools might have to enact due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, Paul has made her first hire, and did so using a new technique.

During the July 9 school board meeting, and as part of her very first report to the board, Paul outlined her hectic first nine days on the job.

“We’re waiting on some guidance from the Department of Education and the Governor,” Paul said. “July 27, we have that date marked on our calendar. We are very, very busy working together and figuring out, based on the three scenarios of how we’re going to bring about the best learning situation for our students this fall.”

Paul said the district conducted a survey to gain feedback, and those responses were helpful in helping form the learning process.

“There are families that really want their kids back in school. And they want to know what that’s going to look like,” Paul continued. “So we are spending our days really digging into looking at what the in-school experience will look like if we are given the go-ahead that we can go with ‘scenario one’ of having all students back in school.”

At the same time, Paul acknowledged it is possible the district will have to once again go with complete distance learning.

“We need to take the work we did in emergency planning last spring and really strengthen that.”

The third option is a hybrid of in-school and distance learning.

“We are operating off the principal that we want to have all of our planning to reflect options for our families to have flexibility and choice,” she said. “So wherever they are at in terms of what option is going to work best with each of their children and their family, that is what we are in a position to deliver.”

Naming a new Activities Director

As if that wasn’t enough to fill her plate, Paul was also tasked with conducting a search for a new Activities Director after Matt Lattimore stepped down to take the Assistant Principal position at the Middle School. 

“Our community values extracurricular and co-curricular activities,” Paul said. “They’re a critical part of the whole list of development of our students. So this was a critical first opportunity for me.”

For the interview process, Paul said she wanted to incorporate a lot of staff, but also include students in the selection process. She said the district received over 30 applicants that had to be paired down to a final selection.

“This is all about our students. So to help me, we had the privilege of two of our students involved with the process.”

Paul said the two students were asked to do a virtual tour of all of the district’s facilities for each of the finalists.

“Both Abby (Schulte) and I were a bit nervous,” admitted Dylan Beaver. “We had never done this before.”

Beaver said Andrea Schmidt, who was ultimately hired, stood out to them.

“She asked all the right questions. She was happy the whole time, she was engaged. We just thought she was a great person for this job.”

“She was so positive the whole time,” added Schulte. “She was all excited about all of the awesome things we have.”

For her part, Schmidt was equally impressed with the two students.

“The process was certainly unique to what we know as a typical hiring process,” Schmidt said. “What was really awesome for me was to sit at a computer screen and to really feel the pride these students had in their activities and the new facilities they have. They did great, they didn’t come across as nervous. And what I found at the end of that was I want to be able to work for these students.”

Board approves filing period, process

For the upcoming November elections, there will be three seats up for election. Besides Tanya Giese, who was just sworn in to fill the remaining few months of Darryl Goebel’s vacated seat, Vice-Chair Tim MacMillan and Heather Osagiede’s seats will be up for election.

The filing period for anyone interested in running will be from July 28 through 5 p.m. on August 11. Because of the pandemic-related restrictions, interested individuals need to contact administrative assistant Arle Chambers at 651-674-1011 or by email at to arrange an appointment to meet at the district office and fill out the necessary paperwork.

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