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School board to use search firm to help replace superintendent

WILLMAR -- Willmar School Board members will seek the help of a search firm in replacing Superintendent Kathy Leedom, who is retiring next summer.

Board members made the decision at a special meeting Friday.

Choosing a superintendent is "the most important thing we do and all of us want to make sure it's done right," Board Chairman Mike Carlson said after the meeting.

Proposals will be requested from a handful of search firms and evaluated at the School Board's next meeting on Jan. 14.

It's the board's goal to have a new superintendent in place by the beginning of July.

Board members set a tentative timeline Friday that includes a Feb. 18 deadline for receiving applications. Finalist candidates will likely be interviewed in March.

The position also was to be posted Friday with the Minnesota School Boards Association and the Minnesota School Superintendents Association.

The Willmar board was unanimous in supporting the use of a search firm to help find Leedom's replacement.

Search consultants can help guide the board through the process of selecting which candidates should be interviewed, how to organize the interviews and even the best questions to ask, said board member Brad Schmidt.

"There's a lot of details you get from that service," he said.

A search firm also could help widen the search by soliciting applications from qualified candidates, said board member Wayne Lenzmeier.

"That's something we can't do," he said. "They have connections we don't have. They do this for a living."

Carlson said after the meeting that the superintendent search is likely to be competitive.

There are already several superintendent openings around the state, he said. "That's just in Minnesota. We want to be out in front as much as possible."

Leedom has been with the Willmar School District since 1994. She has been the superintendent since 2000. She announced her retirement last month.