4 finalists named for Albert Lea superintendent position

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

During a special board meeting Tuesday, the Albert Lea school board identified four candidates as semifinalists for superintendent, who will meet for first-round interviews Monday at the Brookside Education Center.

The semifinalists are Bryan Boysen, Michelle Mortensen, Donita Stepan and Ronald Wagner.

Boysen is the superintendent and kindergarten to fourth-grade principal at Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools, Mortensen is superintendent of Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Schools, Stepan is superintendent of Thief River Falls Public Schools and Wagner is an associate superintendent with Minneapolis Public Schools. 

During the search, Minnesota School Boards Association looks at how a candidate’s background experience and their responses to questions align with the district’s hiring criteria. They also look at references and recommendations, candidates’ work and educational history and how well they line up with stakeholder input. They then put candidates on a five-point scale, where they look to reach consensus on who should move forward.

“Once that consensus is reached then we do a pre-interview with those candidates, conduct some initial reference checks and make sure that they’re really serious about [moving] forward in the application process,” said Jeff Olson, project lead for Minnesota School Boards Association.

Of the four candidates presented to the board, three were accepted. The board also wanted to interview a fourth candidate who applied but was not recommended. 

The candidates were discussed using letters and were only identified by name at the end of the meeting. 

One of the candidates holds an accredited Minnesota superintendent license and has worked as a teacher, principal, assistant principal and associate superintendent. The candidate has worked closely with budgets, grants and other district decision making.

Another of the candidates holds a current Minnesota superintendent license, has been a teacher, principal, community education director, curriculum director and superintendent. The candidate was described as having worked hard to raise achievement for all students and to lower the achievement gap. The person was also described as being well-versed in finance.  

A third candidate also holds a current Minnesota superintendent license and has experience as a superintendent, principal, curriculum director, literacy coach and teacher. The candidate was described by a school board chairperson as a reliable, hardworking innovator who “was up to every challenge presented.”

The board decided to interview another candidate who, according to Vice Chair Kim Nelson, has strong leadership and innovation. The candidate also has previous experience in management and being a superintendent.

During interviews, each board member will ask each candidate two questions.

“A number of people had an opportunity to provide some input on the questions, and there have been some modifications,” Olson said.

Because there are only four candidates, the board changed the start of the meeting to 3 p.m. The May 26 meeting is still scheduled for 4 p.m.

After the second round of interviews with finalists, the board will determine whether or not to extend an offer of employment contract. If a candidate can’t be determined, an interim will be hired.

The superintendent search is underway after Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk announced he was selected to become superintendent in Stillwater.