The Stillwater school board has approved a three-year contract with its new superintendent that will pay her $180,000 in 2015-16 — up from the $165,000 collected this year by interim leader Tom Nelson.

Denise Pontrelli, who now serves as executive director of educational services for the Spring Lake Park Schools, begins work on July 1, and will see her salary rise to $187,272 during the 2017-18 school year, the third year of the deal.

Her contract was approved on April 23 by a unanimous vote.

“We are excited to have her join our district and look forward to working with her to move Stillwater forward,” Tom Lehmann, the school board’s chairman, said in a statement. He has said that everyone contacted by the district has spoken highly of Pontrelli.

She is the district’s first permanent leader since the departure a year ago of Corey Lunn. He came to the Stillwater Area Public Schools in 2011 after serving as superintendent of what then was known as the Montgomery-Lonsdale Schools, a rural district on the southern fringe of the metro area.

Lunn earned $160,000 in his first year and was paid $168,100 before leaving to become schools chief of the Johnston Community School District in Iowa.

Pontrelli’s contract has a provision allowing it to be “terminated at any time by the mutual consent of the school board and the superintendent.”

In April, the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school board failed to reach agreement on a contract with its prospective new leader, Ryan Laager, and announced it was restarting the superintendent search. Patty Phillips, the district’s current leader, is stepping down in June.

Woodbury

Local students nab merit scholarships

Two Woodbury residents were among five Washington County area students named recently as winners of corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship awards.

They were among the first group of honorees to be announced as part of the 60th annual scholarship program.

More than 1.4 million students in about 22,000 schools entered competition by taking the PSAT, the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, as juniors in 2013.

Corporate sponsors provide scholarships for finalists who are children of their employees, who are residents of cities served by the companies or who plan to pursue college majors or careers that the sponsors wish to encourage.

The five students are:

• Alexander Eitzman, of Lake Elmo, who attends Stillwater Area High and plans to study computer engineering.

• Kenneth P. Huang, of Woodbury, who attends Woodbury High and is considering a career in economics.

• James Li, of Woodbury, who attends East Ridge High and plans to study computer science.

• Noah Ruh, of Afton, who attends Stillwater Area High and is considering a career in mechanical engineering.

• James J. Terry, of Hugo, who attends White Bear Lake Area High and is undecided on a career choice.

Eitzman, Huang and Ruh are receiving scholarships through 3M Co., while Li and Terry are being recognized by Walgreen Co. and Motorola Solutions Inc., respectively.

Cottage Grove

Choir singers prep songs from Mexico

Park High choir students have been working with Mexican composer Julio Morales through the ¡Cantaré! program organized by the local group VocalEssence.

Morales was tapped to make three visits to the school during the 2014-15 school year.

The last will coincide with the students’ performance in May of two Spanish-language songs he has written for them about the importance of education.

“They are meaningful texts,” Ben O’Connor, the school’s director of choirs, said in a news release. “That makes them easier to teach and more fun to sing when the students realize what the words mean and what they are singing about.”

The pieces will be performed at a ¡Cantaré! concert set for May 21 at the Ordway Center in St. Paul.

Anthony Lonetree