After Stillwater Area School District assistant superintendent Dr. Bo McDowell announced that he had taking the position of superintendent of the Hastings school district, the ISD 834 school board needed to find a replacement. The board held a special meeting July 13 to select their pick.

“We had 16 candidates in total,” board chair Sarah Stivland said. “Board members ranked these and the top six went through interviews.”

In the past, the role of assistant superintendent was selection by the superintendent as part of the administrative team. In this selection, the board took on the responsibility of selecting the final candidate. The interviews were conducted by teachers, paraprofessionals, principals, students, parents and district level administrators in addition to the school board.

“Committee members provided feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates,” Stivland said. “These were narrowed down to two finalists, who were interviewed by a different group.”

After the second round of interviews, the board was given the task to select from the final two candidates during the July 13 meeting.

“I’m perplexed a little bit about how some of this went down,” board member Jennifer Pelletier said. “There were some incredibly strong candidates that didn’t even get to the interview stage.”

Board member Mark Burns also had questions about the process and felt the district should rely more of the professional expertise of the administration to find a candidate qualified for the job.

“While quantitative results can sometimes work, I think qualitative work can also be important,” Burns said. “I don’t know if we are in the position to make this final decision that may be better made by the superintendent.”

Board member Tina Riehle disagreed and said process went well considering the circumstances the district is under.

“The board selected the final candidates like the superintendent would have done,” Riehle said.

Interim superintendent Malinda Lansfeldt was involved int he process of hiring the new assistant superintendent, Riehle said.

“There was so much representation,” Riehle said. “It was fantastically put together.”

Board members Shelley Pearson and Liz Wiesberg agreed and said that both of the final candidates were excellent and would be comfortable with both options.

“It feels very reassuring that we have high quality candidates and high quality systems for choosing,” Stivland said.

The board voted 5-2 to select the assistant superintendent candidate referred to as number 16 with Burns and board member Mike Ptacek voting for candidate number 2. Because the board is selecting an employee of the district that is not a public official, the board will not release the name of the final selection until the person has accepted the job.

Board vacancy

During the July 13 meeting, the board voted discussed the process to select two replacements for the vacancies on the board that will be made due to the resignation of Board members Mark Burns and Shelley Pearson. The board will appoint two individuals to serve on the until a successor is elected by special election at the time of the next general election. An application and interview process was discussed with the final dates of those interview to be agreed upon during the July 23 board meeting.

Contact Alicia Lebens at

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