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UPDATE: School Board will likely tap search firm for Porter's successor

The District 833 School Board likely will hire a search firm to look for a new superintendent.

The seven-member board met Thursday in a workshop to discuss the process to replace Mark Porter later this year.

Board Chairwoman Leslee Boyd and member Ron Kath said they prefer to hire Ken Dragseth, from SchoolExecConnect, to conduct the search to replace Porter.

SchoolExecConnect was the firm hired to conduct the search that resulted in hiring former superintendent Tom Nelson, and Dragseth's firm also assisted with an in-house process that resulted in hiring Porter in 2009.

Boyd and Kath were among five board members who voted last month to not renew Porter's contract.

Board member Jim Gelbmann, who opposed replacing Porter, asked board members to rescind their decision from December. Prospective superintendent candidates will be asking why the board is looking for a good superintendent when it already has one, Gelbmann said.

The decision not to keep Porter will negatively affect the district far into the future, he added.

Kath said Gelbmann's opinion will be a detriment to the board since the Porter decision had already been made. "You should go along with it," Kath said.

Gelbmann said he was happy with his vote and Kath said he was "at peace" with his vote.

During the discussion about hiring a consultant to conduct a superintendent search, Boyd, who prepared an outline of a search process for board members, said the board should consider hiring Dragseth.

Dragseth knows the district and he has a high trust level with the board, Kath said.

The Minnesota School Boards Association offers searches for $11,250, without expenses for ads and travel for interviews but has been offering the service for only two years, according to Boyd.

The cost of the Nelson search was $22,500, she said.

That didn't include expenses, Gelbmann said.

The cost of the internal search for Porter was $14,000, according to Boyd.

Kath said he supports Dragseth and is not interested in hiring a search firm based in another state.

"But can we find the right person with Ken?" said board member Laurie Johnson.

There are a number of area districts already searching for superintendents, Gelbmann said, adding that 833 is getting a late start.

School board association officials don't agree, Boyd said, that 833 would be at a "huge disadvantage."

The "community is still stinging," Gelbmann said, so the district should go through the process of asking search firms to submit proposals.

Boyd said Dragseth has a "huge edge" because he did the last search.

No formal action was taken at the workshop, but board members reached consensus on further exploring the process to request search firm proposals. Boyd said she would email search-firm information to board members before the Jan. 26 regular meeting to decide whether the board will ask for proposals.

If necessary, Boyd said she would call for a special meeting.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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