Second round: Willmar superintendent interview process continues Monday
WILLMAR -- Two candidates for superintendent of Willmar Public Schools will return to Willmar for second interviews Monday. The Willmar School Board is searching for a new superintendent and hopes to choose a final candidate soon. After first int...
WILLMAR - Two candidates for superintendent of Willmar Public Schools will return to Willmar for second interviews Monday.
The Willmar School Board is searching for a new superintendent and hopes to choose a final candidate soon.
After first interviews a week ago, the board chose Jeffrey Holm and Klint Willert to return. Holm is assistant superintendent at Minot, North Dakota, Public Schools. Willert is superintendent of Brainerd Public Schools.
Willert is also a finalist for superintendent at Brookings Public Schools in Brookings, South Dakota. Interviews there are set to take place later next week.
An internet search did not indicate whether Holm has applied for a job in another school district.
According to a schedule the board set Monday, the two candidates will go on tours of the Willmar community and of the district’s school buildings in the morning and early afternoon. They will have lunch with several community leaders between tours.
In the afternoon, each will have two interviews - a formal interview with the School Board and a meeting with school district’s administrative team.
The School Board interviews are open to the public and are held in the boardroom at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.
Willert is scheduled to meet with the board from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Holm’s interview will be from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m.
After a one-hour break, the two candidates will speak at a question-and-answer session for the community at 6:45 p.m. at the WEAC rehearsal hall.
The School Board is seeking a new superintendent because Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard plans to retire at the end of June.
The board has been looking for a superintendent with experience, who has worked with diverse student populations and with school building projects. The district has a bond referendum election on May 19.
Willert and Holm checked off those boxes and a few more on the board’s list, things like leadership and community relations.
Holm has been an assistant superintendent in Minot since 2006 and was a principal in the district from 1996-2006.
He told the board that he is a Minnesota native and would like to return to his home state.
Minot has an enrollment of more than 7,400 students. In his job, Holm supervises 11 elementary principals, works with federal programs and supervises state testing. He has also supervised the construction of elementary schools.
He began his career in 1985 as an elementary teacher. He taught in Churchs Ferry, North Dakota, and Leonard, North Dakota. In 1991, he began working as a special education director and principal in Philip, South Dakota. He has a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota.
Holm said he has worked on an administrative team that has gone through bond referendums and building projects.
His leadership style has evolved through extensive training, he said, and he has developed a “coaching style” of leadership based on building relationships and finding common goals. Communication is important, he said, and “lack of feedback is a killer.”
Holm listed his strengths as integrity and modeling good behavior for others.
Asked what he’d like his achievements to be after his time in Willmar, he said, he would like people to know that student achievement increased during his time, to see a “culture of support” in the community and to see a collaborative culture among staff, parents and others involved with the district.
“It wouldn’t be about me,” he said. “It would be about how the school improved and not really about me.”
Willert has been superintendent in Brainerd since 2014. Before that, he was superintendent of Marshall Public Schools from 2004 to 2014. He has also worked as a teacher, principal, school counselor and superintendent at schools in Montana, South Dakota and Iowa. He has a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of St. Thomas.
Working in education has “been a wonderful career,” he told the board.
Though he was in Brainerd just one year, he said, his father’s ill health caused him to look for a job closer to family.
Willmar presents a great professional opportunity for him, he said, and he was impressed with the academic turnarounds the district has accomplished in recent years.
“I think it’s important that a superintendent is present and visible,” Willert said, and he makes an effort to visit school buildings often, talking to students and staff members.
Willert said he has supervised several building projects, an elementary and high school in Iowa and a new high school in Marshall. He’s had mostly good experiences, he said, but he did once have to take steps to fire a contractor who was doing substandard work.
Among his greatest strengths he listed his communications skills and his ability to work with a diverse group of audiences. He said he likes to take a complex challenge and work it out.
Willert said after his tenure in Willmar, he’d like to be remembered for building positive relationships and for being innovative. He’d also like people to know “that we were student-centered.”