If everything goes according to plan, the next superintendent of Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) will be a man with administrative experience. Jerry Robicheau of BKB Consultants, the company hired to assist the School Board in finding current WAPS superintendent Scott Hannon’s replacement, presented his recommendations for finalists to the board on Monday at the district office.
“I would not bring forth any of these individuals if I didn’t think they were qualified,” Robicheau said. “They are all strong candidates.”
The six finalists named for the next WAPS superintendent are: Stephen Flisk, currently an associate superintendent at Minneapolis Public Schools; Steven Jordahl, current associate superintendent at Nacel International Schools in St. Paul; Paul Neubauer, current director of curriculum and instruction for Independent School District 15 in St. Francis; Patrick Sweeney, currently an assistant superintendent at Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona; Stephen West, current executive director of educational services for Eden Prairie Schools; and Ron Wilke, current superintendent for the La Crescent-Hokah School district.
“I’m comfortable with these six,” School Board member Ben Baratto said after reviewing each of the recommended candidates. “Jerry has done a heck of a lot more work than just reading the applications.”
This will be the second superintendent search within four years, after Hannon was named interim superintendent in 2010 and then named permanent superintendent after a failed search process in 2012.
Overall, the search yielded 23 applications, which break down as 13 completed applications and 10 incomplete applications, meaning that 10 applicants sent part of an application but did not follow up within the deadline. Of the 13 completed applications, 2 applicants withdrew from the search process last month.
“We were a little concerned initially because applications weren’t coming in as we hoped they would,” Robicheau admitted. “[But] now we are comfortable.”
Robicheau made it clear to the board that experience was a key factor in deciding the finalists. BKB Consultants recommended candidates with experience in office positions.
“I do not think anyone wants Winona to be a training ground,” he remarked.
First round of interviews
The next step in the process will be to conduct the first round of interviews for each potential candidate, which will occur on February 12. Each candidate will be interviewed by a community committee, a staff committee, and the School Board. The staff committee will be made up of WAPS educators and union representatives, while the community committee will include local residents.
The community committee members are Patricia Rodgers, Melissa Ludtke, Nate Emerson, Winona City Manager Judy Bodway, Winona County Administrator Duane Herbert, former WAPS School Board member Michelle Langowski, Minnesota Marine Art Museum Executive Director Andrew Maus, Jerry Papenfuss of Winona Radio, Laura Eddy, Emilio Degrazia, former School Board members Mike Bernatz and Dick Gaffron, and Mari Livingston.
Robicheau advised the board that the process was as much about the district finding the right fit as it was the candidate finding the correct fit as well.
“Candidates are coming in and interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them,” he said.