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School Board publicly backs WHS principal pick

South Washington County School Board members voiced strong support for incoming Woodbury High School Principal Sarah Sorenson-Wagner following apparent complaints from some school staff about the hiring decision.

Sorenson-Wagner’s hiring was approved by the board at its Thursday, May 22, meeting. However, board member Jim Gelbmann had asked to delay the vote until June 5. Gelbmann said he did not object to the hiring process or selection, but said he had received emails and calls from staff upset that an internal candidate was passed over.

“I don’t mean to take anything away from the candidate who was recommended by the administration,” Gelbmann said. “I’m just concerned that the building needs time to process this and come to some understanding that this is the right direction.

“I’m very concerned about staff morale at Woodbury High School.”

The board voted 6-1 to reject Gelbmann’s motion to delay the hiring approval.

Board members rarely comment publicly when they approve hiring recommendations. They were angered that some Woodbury school staff concerns had been amplified at the public meeting.

“This is completely unfair and a very unhealthy way to start a new tenure,” Laurie Johnson said.

Fellow board member Tracy Brunnette said if people have faith in the process, they should have faith in the selection.

“We need to support this person, we need to give them an opportunity to show that they can do the job.”

Board Chair Ron Kath said there is no way to please everyone in a hiring decision.

“We do need to get behind this person 100 percent and give her the resources she’s going to need if there are those kinds of (morale) issues,” he said.

Sorenson-Wagner worked at Woodbury up until two years ago when she became assistant principal at Park High School. She’ll replace the retiring Linda Plante at Woodbury.

Superintendent Keith Jacobus said he and others involved in the hiring used the same extensive, multi-phase process that has been used to select 10 other district administrators since he started two years ago, and that was used in prior selections. Jacobus said there were “high-quality” applicants for the principal position and he was pleased with the internal candidates who applied.

“The decision becomes very difficult,” he said.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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