Stillwater nearing selection of superintendent

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 19, 2011 - 7:34 PM

The Stillwater school board will interview the three finalists for the top job this week.

Three people will be vying this week to lead Stillwater's School District during a series of interviews with the board, community members and staff.

Tom Nelson has served as interim superintendent since Keith Ryskoski resigned last summer. Nelson's interim contract ends June 30.

The next superintendent will lead the 9,000-student district as it undergoes its first redistricting in more than a decade. Under its recently approved 2014 vision plan, the board also will consider in the coming months whether to turn its junior high schools into middle schools and add space to its high school. The district, like many others in the state, faces drastic budget shortfalls.

At least two, and perhaps all three, of the finalists will be interviewed Tuesday through Thursday in an all-day process that will include open forums with the public. Thirty-five people applied for the position.

The new superintendent will begin work by July 1.

Here are the candidates:

Rod Thompson, a native of Twin Valley, taught for seven years before interning as an administrator at a small high school for at-risk students. He then served a string of leadership positions at rural Minnesota high schools and middle schools before taking over the Greenway Public Schools after the superintendent retired. For the past five years, he has served as the superintendent of St. Anthony-New Brighton Schools.

Under Thompson's leadership, St. Anthony-New Brighton has won several accolades. Its high school was named among the top 5 percent in the country by Newsweek magazine, and the district has received the State Department of Education's School Finance Award. It also has implemented an extensive Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program at its high school.

The 45-year-old Thompson is the father of three children. His wife is a teacher at Spring Lake Park High School.

Corey Lunn served as a high school teacher for eight years before becoming an administrator 10 years ago.

Since he became superintendent of Montgomery-Lonsdale Schools four years ago, the district has passed two referendums. One helped renovate all of the district's existing buildings and build a new high school and an elementary and middle-school building. The other helped put new technology in district classrooms. Because of the referendums, the district received the state's second largest allocation in Minnesota for projects last year.

The 44-year-old native of Jackson, Minn., is married and has two children.

"I think my strengths match what [Stillwater] is looking for," he said. "I'm excited to be going on to the next step in the process. "

Brad Meeks has served as superintendent of Farmington Schools for the past 13 years. Before that, he served as a teacher for five years and then as a principal for 10 years at several high schools in South Dakota.

In Farmington, a rapidly growing suburban school district, he has implemented an extensive vision plan that he says has largely come to fruition. "As people come and leave the district, the plan holds," he said.

He also rallied voters to pass a bond referendum in 2005 that helped build a new high school and renovate several buildings in the district.

However, he recently submitted his resignation to the Farmington school board. In recent years, his relationship with some board members has grown contentious, and the board has agreed to pay him $88,000 in severance as he departs. He is due to leave the district by Aug. 31, and may leave earlier if he finds a new job.

"The board is looking for new directions, goals and leadership," he said. "I respected that and was willing to cooperate with them. I think the work that's been done here, I'm very proud of, and proud of all the people that helped contribute to that."

The 50-year-old from Gettysburg, S.D., is married and is the father of four children.

Daarel Burnette II• 651-735-1695

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