Comments given for Albert Lea supt. finalists

Published 4:37 pm Saturday, February 14, 2009

Representatives from four groups stepped to the podium Thursday and gave reports on the three finalists for superintendent of Albert Lea Area Schools.

The school board then deliberated and winnowed the field to two finalists: Superintendent Cathy Bettino of the Pine River-Backus School District and Superintendent Mike Funk of the Bird Island, Olivia, Lake Lillian School District, shortened as BOLD.

The third finalist was Grand Meadow Superintendent Joe Brown, a Freeborn County resident.

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Though the group representatives gave comments on all three, this article shares what they said about the two remaining.

Lakeview Elementary School case facilitator Tami Alphs, representing staff from the elementary schools, said Bettino was articulate and came prepared. She had knowledge of education mandates and standards and supports staff training to those standards. Bettino came across as respectful and supportive of teacher leadership.

The group, Alphs said, liked her emphasis on public relations and like that Bettino thinks the success of the school includes the happiness of the students. She is goal-oriented, realistic, aware of financial alternatives and being creative. Another plus is Bettino has Q-Comp experience.

Funk, Alphs said, is well-rounded and has leadership qualities with a team emphasis. He brings worldwide experiences, a referral to his position as a commanding officer in the Minnesota National Guard. He includes staff on decisions and has many teaching experiences. He is a good listener who seeks student input.

She said Funk sets the tone for the district, is financially innovative, brings fresh and new ideas and knows the importance of family.

Wayne Busch, a high school biology teacher, represented staff from the secondary schools. He said Funk has valuable life experiences and has experience with budget deficits. Funk gave specific examples when answering questions. He has a personal approach to the district and its employees and is a proponent of technology. He brings a collaborative approach to management and a “what’s right for kids?” attitude.

Busch said Bettino is familiar with the programs and initiatives Albert Lea has. He said she gave specific examples when answering questions and has a genuine personality. She believes in an open approach to management and follows a right-sizing approach to declining enrollment.

Margie Thorn, a former Albert Lea school board member and a parent, spoke on behalf of a group of community members.

She said thought all three were well-qualified and highly educated. She said being from smaller districts than Albert Lea serves as a strength, not a weakness. All had good ideas for budgeting. She complimented the board in selecting viable candidates.

Thorn said Funk had a strong sense of self and community. He was impressed with the Albert Lea district. Funk had a collaborative style of leadership, is open-minded and is good at developing relationships. He was positive, energetic, humble and sensitive. He established credibility and referred to the students as customers.

Thorn said Bettino comes with a strong education background. She understands the same principles and theories the district has and would provide an easy transition. Bettino is optimistic and willing to think first, act second. She emphasized collaboration when meeting with the community group.

Albert Lea High School Dean of Students Mary Williams represented the central office group. She said Funk has a calm and pleasant personality with a collaborative style of leadership. His plan for student achievement is focused on the building and classroom levels. In making tough budget decisions, he would refer to the community and schools for guidance. He talked about continuous improvement, first looking at what Albert Lea is doing, then adjusting to students’ needs. Funk, Williams said, is well-spoken and data-driven.

Williams said Bettino would provide a nice transition for the district. She represented herself as fair, honest and transparent. The group, she said, was impressed by her depth of knowledge and she gave many examples of education programs, such as a ninth-grade transition program. She could step into the role of superintendent without needing time to “catch up.” Bettino gave specific answers and has a facilitative leadership style. She is open and public about financial decisions and makes budget decisions based on student and community needs. Williams said Bettino’s experience with strategic planning and degree in public relations will benefit her.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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