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Six superintendent finalists chosen

A superintendent search firm announced the names of six finalists for the Wadena-Deer Creek superintendent job Monday night.

The search firm BKB School Executive Search Consultants recommended the following applicants for the interview process, which will be conducted by the WDC school board and an advisory committee of community members:

• Thomas Hiebert, the current superintendent at McLeod West Public Schools, who also has principal experience in other Minnesota districts including Lyle, Sauk Centre and Atwater-Grove City. He was described as "enthusiastic, works tirelessly, well organized and a good listener."

• Wayne Olson, the current superintendent in Comfrey Public Schools. He has 20 years teaching experience, and served three years as a high school principal in Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, Minn. Under his leadership, the Comfrey district saw gains in open enrollment.

• Allen Ralston, superintendent in Isle Public Schools. Ralston also has 17 years teaching experience, six years as principal in Pine River-Backus, and has been described as a "visionary" by his references.

• Virginia Dahlstrom, an assistant professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has a PhD in kinesiology and brings a diverse background from work in U.S., Singapore and Korean schools.

• Charles Rick, superintendent at St. Louis County schools, based in Virginia, Minn. He has 13 years experience as a superintendent at his current school and at Sibley East schools. He has experience in strategic planning and successful referendums.

• Christopher Thomalla, superintendent at Elcho (Wis.) Public schools. His strengths were listed as fiscal management and communication.

The six finalists were chosen from a field of 30 applicants, a pretty robust number, said Brian Boettcher, managing consultant for BKB.

"You've attracted a good pool," he said.

Richard Berge, a consultant for BKB, said the district should feel fortunate not only for the sheer number of applicants, but the quality of the finalists.

BKB also navigated advisory committee and school board members through potential legal entanglements that could arise from asking innocent questions, which could be construed as bias.

For instance, interviewers were told not to ask the applicants if they work well with younger co-workers, which could be considered age discrimination. Applicants also cannot be asked if they are married, have children, attend church, or other personal information.

BKB presented the names Monday night at a WDC school board meeting, but the board cannot officially accept the names until its next meeting, at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Interviews will be held with the finalists later this month, involving both the school board and the advisory committee. The board will make the final decision to hire a superintendent to replace Jerry Enget, who is retiring at the end of the school year.