The Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of directors hired the Minnesota Schools Board Association to conduct its next search for a permanent superintendent.

The SAPS board issued a request for proposals on Dec. 10, 2021, to hire a firm to conduct its search for a permanent superintendent. The RFP application period closed on Dec. 17, 2021.

The board interviewed Ray and Associates, Inc. and MSBA during a special called meeting Jan. 4. The board voted 6-1 in favor of hiring MSBA at its organizational meeting on Jan. 6, 2022.

When former Board Chairwoman Bev Petrie presented the issue to the board during its meeting on Dec. 9, 2021 she said that interim Superintendent Malinda Lansfeldt, who has filled the role since 2020, was abnormally selected. Alison Sherman was elected the current board chairwoman during the Jan. 6, meeting.

Board member Tina Riehle stated her support for Ray and Associates.

“I believe this would be the strongest and most positive direction for the board to move,” Riehle said. “We have a very divided community still. Mr. Morris understands the makeup of the community, and considering his knowledge and desire for this district to have strong community schools. I believe Ray’s is the best choice.”

They can draw candidates nationally.

“It’s best to have a larger pool of talent,” Riehle said. “Mr. Morris’ interview was very positive in nature.”

Ray and Associates offers a two-year guarantee.

“They offer the ability to aid in

negotiations,” Riehle said. “Their desire to involve community stakeholders demonstrates an understanding of its importance. This is what they do. This isn’t a side hustle.”

Vivian Votova countered Riehle’s statement with “why wouldn’t the other (option) be positive?”

Riehle made a motion to hire Ray and Associates, before any discussion was held, and the motion failed due to lack of a second.

Board member Katie Hockert then motioned to hire MSBA, and it was seconded by Petrie.

The majority of board members voiced a slight preference for MSBA.

“We were able to listen to two at two excellent, excellent vendor options: Ray and Associates and MSBA,” Sherman said.

Petrie spoke in favor of hiring the Minnesota Schools Board Association because they have more depth with Minnesota issues.

“I’m sure it would be an excellent experience no matter which company we went with,” Petrie said. “I have just a very slight preference for the MSBA contract just because I feel as though they bring a tiny little bit extra to the experience for us because they are so experienced with Minnesota law, and school board experiences in this state.”

Petrie called references for both vendors.

“The references for both companies were just stellar,” Petrie said.

However, she found MSBA to be just slightly better.

“In addition to it being a really well-oiled process, in terms of finding a superintendent, it was also an opportunity for their board to have a little bit more board development,”

Petrie said. “For me that was just the tiniest bit of extra that sort of pushed me over the edge to MSBA.”

Pete Kelzenberg voiced support for MSBA. He was impressed with Barb Dorn’s video presentation shown before the meeting, and she was the person who presented to the board during the Jan. 4 meeting.

“I liked the people that came here, and I think they will do well for us,” Kelzenberg said.

Annie Porbeni concurred that it was a very close call between the two companies.

“Both firms are extraordinary for us,” Porbeni said. “For me, I think Ryan and Associates will do excellent. If they weren’t competing against MSBA, they probably would have been my choice. …

When it comes to recruitment MSBA will be the side to go to because of what it presents.”

While Ray and Associates is a national firm based in Iowa, MSBA also has still national reach, but is a Minnesota-based entity, Porbeni noted.

“That’s why I’m going with MSBA, not because they’re better than Ray and Associates in any, but because they’re local, and they know everything about the district,” she said.

One thing that stuck with board member Katie Hockert was Ray and Associates commitment to equity and their business model. What impressed her with MSBA was their plan for community engagement.

“I thought they brought some innovative ideas, you could really tell they have learned and adjusted through the pandemic, experimented a little bit and are constantly reflecting on that process and making it better,” Hockert said, “Which I found very attractive

in a company.”

MSBA also understand Minnesota law and the policy the board needs to be following.

When talking with other board members from other district’s that was an issue they often cited.

That was the area where Hockert found MSBA a little stronger. She noted that candidates already interested in a job in the Stillwater position will apply, no matter which firm the board selects.

Board elections

Alison Sherman is the new chairwoman of the Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Directors.

Bev Petrie has served as board chair for approximately one year, but at the start of the board’s organizational meeting on Jan. 7, the current board chairwoman nominated Alison Sherman for the position.

Tina Riehle nominated herself for board chair. Sherman won the bid for board chair with six votes for Sherman and Riehle voting for herself.

Katie Hockert was elected vice chairwoman on a 6-1 vote with Riehle again nominating herself again and voting for herself.

Annie Porbeni was elected as clerk on a 7-0 vote.

Bev Petrie was elected as treasurer on a 6-1 vote with Riehle nominating at voting for herself.

The board also set board member salaries.

“Currently, each elected school board member receives an annual salary of $4,750,” Sherman said. “The elected board chair receives an additional $500 for a total annual salary of $5,250.”

Petrie made a motion to approve board salaries as they currently stand for 2022. The motion passed on a 7-0 vote.

Contact Matt DeBow at

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