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BOLD to seek half-time, interim leader

Tom Cherveny / Tribune Superintendent John Dotson listens to discussion during the BOLD School Board meeting on Monday evening in Bird Island. The board voted to advertise for an interim, part-time superintendent.

BIRD ISLAND — BOLD School Board members are opting to go with a half-time, interim superintendent when the contract with Superintendent John Dotson expires in July.

Board members have been debating whether to consider a proposal by their superintendent of the past 5½ years to continue on a part-time basis, search for a full-time successor, find another district to share a superintendent, or make the position less than full time and seek applicants.

On a 5-1 vote Monday, board members decided to give a half-time, interim position a try. Members said they would be open to considering Dotson as a candidate for the position.

"We've said John is more than welcome to apply for this," said board member Brian Boen, who added that he would like to consider other candidates as well. "We don't know what's out there until we open it up."

Boen had cast the lone vote against the motion for a half-time, interim superintendent. He said he favors a full-time position. Members Jeff Benson and John Desotell authored the motion and members Traci Buchtel, Melissa Sagedahl and Russ Lesniak also voted yes. Member Jill Hanson was absent.

Unresolved is how board members will search for a new superintendent. The members agreed to participate in a three-hour Minnesota School Boards Association training program on how to select a superintendent.

They tabled a decision on selecting any of the three search firms they had originally interviewed with intentions of launching a search for a full-time superintendent.

Benson and Desotell told their fellow board members that they feel strongly the district needs to hire a search firm.

The time demands for finding a superintendent are great, Desotell said, while holding up heavy folders from the previous searches in which he has participated. He and Benson pointed to the need to develop criteria for a superintendent, make visits to the districts of candidates, and collect the background and reference information needed for a decision.

Also unresolved are the differences in opinions over the current superintendent and his offer to continue in a reduced role. Board members on Oct. 23 voted 2-4 not to extend Dotson's contract.

Desotell said he continues to struggle with why some board members oppose Dotson's offer to continue. He said the superintendent has done all that board members have asked in terms of running the district and its finances, initiating programs for students, and putting down roots in the community.

Benson pointed out that many projects are now in the works, and it would be difficult for someone new — especially on a half-time basis — to step in and take them over.

"I don't think we can bring a new superintendent in and (expect) him or her to land on their feet and run right away," he said.

In response to Desotell's questions on why there is opposition to Dotson, Sagedahl and Buchtel said they favor going in a new direction.

Sagedahl said she voted in October against extending the superintendent's contract and spoke at that time about her previous experience serving as activities and community education director for the district.

"I believe my decision is based on leadership qualities and the simple fact that building relationships, I think, is an extremely important part of this position," Sagedahl said Monday.

"To me it's just leadership qualities and general transparency and some procedures; following policy and procedures issues is what I have," Buchtel said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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