Video Posted: Kringen shares his views with district, says he has another offer elsewhere

WILLMAR -- Mahnomen Superintendent Jon Kringen shared with the Willmar School Board his ideas about administrative organization and about the challenges facing schools in the future.

WILLMAR -- Mahnomen Superintendent Jon Kringen shared with the Willmar School Board his ideas about administrative organization and about the challenges facing schools in the future.

Then he shared with the board Wednesday evening that he had received another job offer, to be superintendent in the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle School District.

Kringen spent the afternoon and evening in Willmar on Wednesday to meet with school staff, the public and the board in a second interview for the chance to succeed Superintendent Kathy Leedom, who will retire on July 31.

Board members spent an hour in the evening asking Kringen to add to answers he gave during a first interview a week ago.

Board Chairman Mike Carlson asked Kringen to expand on his views about developing a superintendent's cabinet.


Kringen said he didn't envision making immediate changes to the structure that is already in place, because the district is well organized. As he became familiar with the system, he would want to have a team of principals and top administrators to meet with him weekly, so he could stay in touch with what is happening in buildings. He would build an expanded cabinet that would meet less often but would include supervisors from all aspects of the district. Some of that structure is already in place in Willmar.

Last week he had talked about an advisory council of staff members, but he said he isn't so sure he would do that right away. While he likes to be in contact with staff members, he said, he wouldn't want to step on the principals' toes.

Several board members asked how he would succeed Leedom in her role as the "face of the district" to the community.

Kringen said he knew that it would be a challenge to follow Leedom into the job. "I am who I am," he said. "I'm not the same person that Kathy Leedom is."

However, he added, "I know I can talk to anybody about anything," but he would do it in his own style while also trying to follow the example she has set.

He's not a person who feels he has to get the credit for what's going on in the district, he said. "I would rather have the principal out there getting the publicity."

Board member Wayne Lenzmeier said public relations is important but he was more concerned that the superintendent focus on the welfare of the district and its students.

Board member Shawn Mueske said he liked Kringen's answer a week ago about challenges facing schools in the future. One of the things he brought up was the need to train the next generation of teachers, so they can prepare students for the future.


"I think we need to stop discouraging people from going into teaching," Kringen said. Young people should be told that teaching is an honorable thing to do, he added.

On other issues, Kringen said he would be willing to follow procedures to dismiss a tenured teacher who was not doing his or her job. However, he said, he wouldn't do it lightly. "You're taking away a person's livelihood," he said. He would first try to do what he could to help the person succeed.

Board members asked if it would be difficult for him to step back from the active role he has as a superintendent in a small district and be able to delegate. Kringen said he has worked in a larger district, in Bismarck, N.D. Letting go of some day-to-day activities is "something I will have to discipline myself to do," he said.

Leedom had told him about the good support system in place, he said. "I'm going to have to trust that they can help me do my job."

Kringen said he thought the key to asking voters to raise their taxes to help the school districts was giving them a reason to vote yes. Districts need to explain what their needs are and why they are asking for more money or for a building project, he said.

Kringen also answered questions for an hour at a public meeting Wednesday afternoon. More than 30 people attended, including members of the School Board.

The evening interview with the board was a more serious occasion, but Kringen let his sense of humor show during the community meeting.

Asked how he would handle conflicts with the board, he said, "Well, I'm right and they're wrong," to laughter from his audience. He went on to explain that he didn't think it was necessary for people to always agree on issues. The important thing would be to agree to disagree at times and to leave a meeting with everyone supporting a board decision.


Kringen said he had experience working with diverse populations, because Mahnomen's student population is 65 percent Ojibwe. But he doesn't have much experience with Hispanic or Somali students. He said he would do what he had done in Mahnomen and reach out to families.

"I think if you take a genuine interest in other people, they will open up to you and explain their views," he said.

To answer a question about how he would get involved with elementary grades, Kringen said he likes to get out and walk through his school buildings. He said he likes to attend school events as much as possible.

"If you're not at school activities, the kids notice," he said.

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