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Board retains Mitchell

The Superior School District superintendent search failed to find a replacement for Jay Mitchell. Instead the board is asking Mitchell to rescind his retirement and return to work as the district's head employee for two more years. The board met ...

The Superior School District superintendent search failed to find a replacement for Jay Mitchell.

Instead the board is asking Mitchell to rescind his retirement and return to work as the district's head employee for two more years.

The board met Tuesday to whittle down its candidate list from five to two, but decided none of the applicants were qualified for the position.

The board will consider making Mitchell's extended stay official at the regular board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, said Dave Tunell, board president.

The board worked on its superintendent search for months. First it chose a search consultant, hiring Administrator Search Consultants in November. The board approved spending $135 per hour for the consultant. The total cost of the search was about $8,700.

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After posting the position on educational Web sites and publications in Wisconsin and about four other states, the district received eight applications. All the applicants for the position came from Wisconsin.

The board and a larger superintendent search committee reviewed the eight applications and chose five candidates to interview. The interviews were conducted during a closed board meeting on Friday and Saturday.

Those interviews failed to identify a candidate that would "fit" with the district, Tunell said.

"There wasn't agreement on any one or two candidates to bring back for a second interview," he said.

The search committee was made up of parents, community members and district staff. District staff and board members far outnumbered others. Of the 23 members of the committee only five were not tied to the district through employment or election. Members of the search committee were invited to serve by the administration and board members. Principals from the district suggested the two parent members.

Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce president Dave Minor served on the committee and is pleased with the search.

"I was very pleased that the school district brought in both members from the community and business community to be part of the process," he said. "It really does allow a lot of different people to be part of (the process) and look at it from many different sets of eyes."

The search committee helped the board identify criteria for position advertisements and develop candidate questions.

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Once applications came in, the board met to review them and narrow down who to bring to Superior for an interview.

The search consultant conducted telephone interviews with the applicants who met with the search committee this weekend.

Search committee meetings that involved review of candidates' qualifications were closed to the public.

Board and committee members felt two candidates could have filled the position, but didn't fit with Superior, Tunell said.

Each candidate being considered was missing something, Tunell said.

Some lacked multiple-staff experience, some came from smaller districts and some did not answer the search committee's questions to member's satisfaction, he said.

The candidate's answers to the questions were rated. Two candidates had fairly decent scores.

"Overall, it was just does the experience and background fit with what we're seeking with the city of Superior," he said.

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Right now, the administration and teachers are good at working together to improve the district, Tunell said.

The candidates are qualified for the positions they currently hold, but they lack experience that could benefit Superior's schools, he said.

Tunell could not recall what size district's the applicants' served, but said they were smaller than Superior.

Minor said he also felt the candidates would not fit with the district.

They had good credentials for being superintendents. They had the educational background, credentials and degrees, but they did not fit with what he was looking for, he said.

"It's not something you could put your finger on," Minor said. "I'm looking for someone to come in and be the cheerleader, PR for the district. (I) wasn't comfortable saying they could come in and fill that role."

Minor was on the search committee that chose Mitchell nine years ago, and was looking at the candidates from a business community standpoint.

The board made a tough decision Tuesday to end the search, said Minor, who applauds their efforts.

"I'm very happy Jay is going to stick around for the next couple of years," he said. "I wholeheartedly support the board in their decision."

The board basically had two options. Repost the position and wait for more candidates to apply or ask Mitchell to withdraw his retirement, Tunell said.

"As board president I had asked (Mitchell) 'what if there were no applicants' ... early in the process. ... He said he'd consider staying."

Other board members queried Mitchell as well, but the board formally asked him to stay Tuesday.

Mitchell accepted the board's request but would have denied the request if his relationship with the board wasn't good.

"I think this board has done an excellent job," Mitchell said. "(They have) passion for what they do."

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail akurth@superiortelegram.com .

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