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Westrum makes official superintendent acceptance via text message

It was officially decided during Monday’s Wadena-Deer Creek School Board meeting that Lee Westrum will be the district’s superintendent next year, and some could argue the method of communication with Westrum was a bit out of the ordinary.

Although it had been apparent the school would hire Westrum for some time, Monday’s unanimous vote to approve his contract was what made it official.

Westrum was absent for the Wadena meeting in order to attend his own school board meeting in Benson, and was notified of the board’s decision via text message immediately after the vote was taken.

His texted reply was read out loud by Board Member Ann Pate, and it said in part: “I’m very excited to join the WDC team. Please pass along my thanks to the board for this great opportunity.”

On Tuesday, Westrum elaborated on his feelings about having clinched the post. He said he was grateful for the ample time to transition from his post as superintendent in Benson, Minn., to the job in Wadena.

“It’s nice that it’s now official and I can start making some concrete plans and getting settled,” Westrum said. “I really can’t wait to get started. It’s a little strange because we have three months between now and when I get started, but that’s alright too. It’ll allow me a good opportunity to make sure things are in order here.”

Westrum said his contract is to last three years, which he described as typical within Minnesota. He added that it is also the maximum length for a superintendent contract allowed in the state. His said his pay level for the first year is $124,000, with any pay increases to be determined each following year.

Westrum added that he had the possibility to earn additional “incentive pay” by accomplishing goals he would establish with the school board.

His contract duration, pay level and ability to collect incentive pay were later confirmed by Deb Berry, HR/payroll specialist for WDC.

Board Chairman Steve Techam said his outlook for the new superintendent’s term included a continuation of progress achieved thus far, as well as keeping an emphasis on technology. Challenges Westrum will face as he steps into the post may include maintaining WDC’s budget, Techam added.

“We’ve got to work within our means,” Techam said.         

Regardless of the difficulties that may be in store for Westrum, members of the board were confident they had chosen the right person for the job.

“We feel we have an outstanding student superintendent,” Pate said.