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Superintendent decision should come soon

With all six final candidates for the West Fargo Superintendent of Schools position completing the interview process last Thursday, Friday and Sunday, the decision as to where to go next now lies in the hands of the seven members of the West Fargo School Board.

District patrons should expect a final decision on who will lead the District to come soon, though the Board is reluctant to give a specific timetable.

We dont have a targeted date right now, Duane Hanson, president of the West Fargo School Board, said at Mondays regular meeting. We know we have some very good semifinalists, and were working to get together with them again. I think we could see a second round of interviews this Friday.

Hanson indicated to the press and Mondays meeting that most likely two candidates will be asked to come back for second-round meetings with the Board and Administration on Friday.

The Board and administrative staff from the District met with two candidates over the course of the three days of interviews, starting last Thursday and wrapping up Sunday afternoon. No candidates were interviewed Saturday.

The process started with current Assistant Superintendent Louise Dardis on Thursday afternoon. Cold Springs Scott Staska, superintendent of the Roccori School District, met with the Board and staff on Thursday night.

Friday, the two candidates that had to travel from furthest points met with the Board. North Carolinas Dana Diesel Wallace, senior director of middle school education at Wake County Public Schools in Raleigh, N.C., met with the group at 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. Later, Todd Hess, the director of contract administration at Anchorage, Alaska, and a Minnesota State University Moorhead alumnus met with the Board.

Sunday, Pittsburgh, Kan., community schools assistant superintendent Matthew Wendt went through his interview session. Bismarck Assistant Superintendent Rick Buresh wrapped up the process Sunday afternoon.

Each interview session lasted about two hours. The Board and staff discussed each candidates leadership style, situational decision-making skills, teacher/administration relationships and other relative topics, and began deliberating as soon as interviews wrapped up Sunday night. Discussion went late into Sunday evening.

I think the Board had a high quality collection of candidates throughout this process, Robin Hill, Human Resources Coordinator for the District, said. They had varying backgrounds. They brought a lot of different experiences to the table. I think it was a process that was valuable for all that were involved.

The Board discussed the process at its regular meeting on Monday night at the Early Childhood Center, saying they were still in the process of deliberations.

Its been a good process. These are good candidates. Were impressed. I think now were going to contact each of the six semifinalists personally this week, Hanson said. We would like to do that before the second round of interviews. And then well go from there.

After that the Board faces the unenviable task of finally naming a new superintendent to replace Dr. Chuck Cheney, who has spent 40-plus years in the West Fargo School District, including the last seven as superintendent.

Youre really not going to ever replace someone who has that much experience with this District, Hanson said. Youre just looking for the person who can continue to make this District the best in the state.

Hill said, thus far, the Board has handled the immense task of finding a new leader quite well.

Its going to be a difficult decision, no matter how you slice it, she said. I think theyve done a nice job with the process. There has been a great exchange of thought and ideas. I think they found the entire experience to be well worth it. Weve all learned a lot from this.

The District has worked with Ray and Associates, a search firm based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, throughout the process.

The search firm had targeted this entire week to use for second-round interviews with select semifinalists, but Board member Troy Aswege will be out of town on business. Since the firm and the Board each want all members present at the interview sessions, no further progress will be made in the search until Aswege returns on Friday afternoon.

However, the firm would like the District to have a new leader in place by the end of this month, giving the Superintendent-to-be a full two months to work with Cheney before his retirement.

Well have more deliberation with a decision coming up soon, Hanson said. You hate to start giving specific dates because people then expect decisions on those dates. But, soon.