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Photo by Brian Hansel Wadena-Deer Creek superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom explained features of the new high school-middle school complex to members of the public during a December school board meeting. Dahlstrom's three-year contract with District 2155 is up July 1, and she was recently announced as a finalist in the Red Wing school district.

No contract yet, Superintendent Dahlstrom a finalist in Red Wing

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The issue of whether or not WDC Superintendent Dr. Virginia Dahlstrom has been offered a new contract by the WDC board took center stage this week, and Dahlstrom being named a finalist for the Red Wing superintendent job added urgency to the discussion Tuesday night.

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The subject of Tuesday's contract offer, the final item agenda of Tuesday's 2 1/2 hour session, saw both sides clear the air about the question of whether or not Dahlstrom was previously offered a contract.

Board member Steve Techam said that the board had offered Dahlstrom a three-year contract but that she had asked for a two-year contract. He also enumerated different benefit items connected with that contract offer.

When Dahlstrom asked for a copy of that contract, board chairman Ann Pate said that no written offer had been made to her.

"We have not presented you a contract, we have been in negotiation," Pate said. "We have suggested one salary option and one two-three year contract option. We have not offered you a contract."

Dahlstrom promptly thanked Pate because it settled a question that many people in the community have asked over the past week.

Dahlstrom is seeking a raise in salary and other benefits over a two-year period. She would like a contract equivalent with one that a superintendent receives in a district the size of Wadena-Deer Creek.

Tuesday's meeting ended with the board voting 4-2 to present Dahlstrom with a written offer. The offer, which was worked up during Tuesday's meeting, was based off a contract that Techam presented to board members at last week's regular board meeting. Techam's original contract offer, which he based on superintendent's pay in surrounding districts, called for a raise in pay from $113,500 to $125,500 in 2011-2012 and another raise to $128,500 in the second year of the contract.

Dahlstrom said she would review Tuesday's offer privately and that she would give the board an answer at their next meeting. Dahlstrom added that she felt the board would have to meet within the next two weeks to deal with issues regarding the construction of the new high school-middle school complex.

Tuesday's session included several written and a number of public statements of support for Dahlstrom and praise for her compassion, her diligence, her leadership and her effect on the community.

Dahlstrom is one of the five finalists to replace retiring Red Wing superintendent Stan Slessor.

Slessor gave the Red Wing School Board notice that he would be retiring his post last October. The board received 37 applications. A personnel sub-committee chose six finalists but one finalist withdrew Jan. 20.

Other candidates for the position are Watertown-Mayer superintendent Karsten Anderson, Pine River-Backus superintendent Catherine Bettino, St. Louis Park assistant superintendent Robert Laney and Farmington assistant superintendent Christine Weymouth.

Dahlstrom said Monday morning that the major reason she applied for the Red Wing position was because she had not been offered a contract at Wadena-Deer Creek as of Jan. 1 and considered it prudent to apply for other job openings in her field.

Dahlstrom has been superintendent of District 2155 since July 2008. She accepted a "skeletal contract" offer from the WDC board for three years. At the time, the WDC school board was having financial troubles and could not offer Dahlstrom the salary and benefits her position merited. Her three-year contract is set to expire July 1.

Dahlstrom has been a part of a number of achievements by the district including rebuilding a badly depleted general fund balance, convincing voters to vote in favor of a school levy referendum and finding rooms and facilities for the WDC student body and staff after a June 17 tornado destroyed the high school-middle school complex and district offices.

According to Dahlstrom, contracts are usually offered to superintendents in the fall but they can be offered any time during the year.

Techam said Monday that District 2155 school board had planned to offer Dahlstrom a contract at their regular meeting Jan. 18. Dahlstrom missed that meeting due to illness.

First round interviews in Red Wing will be held Feb. 2-3. Second round interviews will be held Feb. 15-16.

"I think it is really healthy to find out what other districts are doing," Dahlstrom said. "The interview process is an opportunity to reflect."

Dahlstrom also stated Monday that even if she is offered the Red Wing position she may not take it. She likes the Wadena-Deer Creek community and is excited about the construction of a new high school-middle school complex, which is set to begin in April.

The Red Wing School District has a student population of 2,793. WDC started the 2010-2011 school year with 1,001 students.

Dahlstrom was a semifinalist for the superintendent position two weeks ago in Faribault.

The Red Wing Republican Eagle contributed to this

article.

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