After an hour interview and 25 minutes of deliberation, the Cannon Falls School Board, at their special meeting Monday night, March 21, decided in an all "ayes" roll-call vote, to offer current Elementary Principal, Beth Giese, the District Superintendent position on an interim basis. She will replace current Superintendent Todd Sesker when he leaves to become Faribault's superintendent July 1. Sesker was not in attendance, but the gallery was filled with teachers, Community Education personnel, and community members.
Board Chair Bob Brintnall began by having former superintendent Dick McGuire and former Board Chair and 16-year Board member Dick Peterson, both part of the Search Committee, walk through the process that brought them to "Plan B" - an internal, interim candidate.
McGuire explained how disappointed he was that, out of 29 applicants, "not a one really stuck out." He discussed the positives (a "known commodity" vs. the lemon factor, less turnaround time due to already possessing knowledge of the district and making it "easier to move forward," maintaining a "working team" with the opportunity to re-organize administration to retain a full-time high school principal and the "huge savings" in doing so), and the negatives (most applicants are not interested in merely an interim position, and most have less experience) of the proposal.
McGuire told how they went back and reviewed all 29 again, categorizing them (19 "No - please don't call these people"; four out-of-state and unfamiliar with financial complexities of Minnesota's system; three with terrible errors; one with an over-abundance of experience; one with only internship experience; and lastly, the internal, accredited, but without any experience candidate) to determine if Plan B was indeed the best way to go. He reassured the Board that learning the "financial piece" was probably the easiest part of the job, and that there were plenty of ways to shore up that area.
Peterson summed up the recommendation. "...if you think you have a good internal candidate, why bring in someone who doesn't stack up any better...our current team works together well, they've already got their feet on the ground so they can start to move forward before we'd even get someone else here...." The Board's 28 pre-written questions, broken into six areas (General Information, Working with Administrative Staff/Team Management, Working with Staff, Public Relations/Communications, Knowledge and Understanding of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Processes and Graduation Standards, and Board Relations) were distributed to the audience. Members took turns and allowed for responses of no longer than three minutes. Giese's answers stressed the importance of listening and communication, accessibility and community involvement.
Giese was asked to leave when the interview was over. Brintnall meticulously went around the table, asking each member to comment. Board member Brenda Owens spoke for a majority when she recapped. "Her enthusiasm and passion are evident. She's got a working knowledge of the district, she's heavily involved in the community...she always brings very detailed information," Owens began. "I think she would work hard and do her very best. It was more than just a great interview, she really has her heart in it - could you say that of anyone else you may bring in?"
Board member Pat Dougherty concurred, "If we bring in someone new, it will take them a year just to learn everyone's name and gain their trust."
Board members Jerry Reinardy and Curt Beissel voiced some concern over how the change in roles might affect staff or make Giese's transition challenging. "She has really come through the ranks," Reinardy confirmed. "Not everyone is going to be thrilled."
Brintnall reminded the board of the "many hats" Giese has already worn during her time in the district. He felt it would simply be viewed as another change like any other. Board member Rob Siebenaler reminded the board that "as her 'boss,' we must help her to succeed."
During the motion discussion, Siebenaler inquired about the "opt out" after the "interim." Brintnall explained that either side could determine "if it wasn't working out" after either the 1st or 2nd year. Siebenaler then asked if her current position would be "saved if she chose to 'bump back' to elementary principal." Brintnall said that would need to go into a "Letter of Understanding" that outlined the "domino effect" on the two other administrative positions.
The Board passed a motion to "offer a one-year interim superintendent's position with the option of a 2nd year, contingent upon the successful negotiation of a contract" to Giese.
The Board will hold its annual board retreat (goals, planning) on Wednesday, March 23, at 6 p.m. at Cannon River Winery.
The finance committee will meet Wednesday, March 23, at 7 a.m., and the next regular board meeting will be Monday, March 28, at 7 p.m.