One of the two candidates vying for the Wayzata School District's top job is Prior Lake-Savage Superintendent Tom Westerhaus, who announced his resignation last month after a former employee he had fired was elected to the Prior Lake-Savage school board.

"I'm not staying in the [Prior Lake-Savage] district because it feels like a personal integrity issue," Westerhaus told Wayzata residents at a forum this week. "It's sort of a line in the sand."

Westerhaus announced he would resign at the end of this school year after former district employee Chris Lind was elected to the school board. Lind, a former campus supervisor, was fired for what school officials said was a pattern of proselytizing to students about his Christian faith.

Westerhaus submitted his resignation shortly after the election.

District residents and school officials pleaded with him not to resign, but Westerhaus said he couldn't stay in Prior Lake and pretend nothing had happened. He's led the south-metro district since 2002.

"Something did happen, and in the future they need to look at the election process and how to protect students," Westerhaus said Tuesday night during a meeting with Wayzata district residents and school board members at Wayzata Central Middle School in Plymouth.

The competition

The other finalist for the Wayzata job is Edina Assistant Superintendent Chace Anderson. The two men were selected from among candidates seeking to succeed Wayzata Superintendent Robert Ostlund, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

Westerhaus and Anderson toured the district and met with school board members, administrators and residents on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wayzata officials consider both candidates highly qualified. They were selected after a two-month search conducted by School Exec Connect.

Wayzata school board member Pat Gleason said board members met last week and chose Westerhaus and Anderson as the final two candidates.

Before he moved to Prior Lake-Savage, Westerhaus was superintendent of the Rocori School District near St. Cloud for more than a decade. During the late 1980s, he held the same position in the Arcadia School District in Wisconsin.

Westerhaus is the current president of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA).

Anderson has served as Edina's assistant superintendent since 2003. Before that, he was principal of Edina High School and Edina Valley View Middle School. He began his career as a teacher in Iowa.

"Chace Anderson is an outstanding education leader," Edina Superintendent Ric Dressen said. "He's served in a variety of positions in our district and excelled."

A different landscape

Wayzata's seven-member school board will select the district's next superintendent at a special meeting on Monday.

The west-metro district is larger than both Edina and Prior Lake-Savage in terms of total enrollment and schools. Wayzata has more than 9,800 students versus more than the 7,490 students in Edina and the 6,500 students in Prior Lake-Savage.

Plymouth resident Ruth Koran attended Tuesday night's forum and said she planned to attend Anderson's session Wednesday night.

The single mother of four and former teacher said she was impressed with Westerhaus' candid answers to her questions about how he has handled racial and economic diversity in his previous districts.

"I do like that he recognized the value of the diversity in the communities where he's worked," Koran said. "We need all of our kids to have a vision and a future, not just those that know they have a tuition fund."

Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395 Staff writer Emily Johns contributed to this report.