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Don't dally with Dahlstrom deal

Wadena-Deer Creek Superintendent Dr. Virginia Dahlstrom is in negotiations with the WDC board and is interviewing for the same job in the Red Wing district in case things don't work out here. Let's make sure things work out here.

The WDC School Board is doing the prudent thing by being careful with the taxpayers' money. They deserve a lot of credit for pulling the district out of a tough financial spot a few years ago, and they didn't steer the schools back to fiscal health by throwing money around. But in this case, it might be time to loosen the purse strings to keep a dynamic superintendent here at home.

Dahlstrom has certainly proven her worth at any cost. When she came, there was no shortage of drama and tension with the school and the community, and she quickly repaired that and won people over. She not only worked tirelessly at the school to improve internally, she reached out by going to service club meetings and countless community events -- everything from parades to boxing matches. She guided a great administrative team and brought back a lot of pride to WDC and the communities it serves.

Then June 17 happened. The EF4 tornado changed her job dramatically. If there was a time clock left untouched by the tornado, Dahlstrom would have likely burned it up with all of the hours she put in to get school started on time, even while her own office and the high school stood in ruin. WDC no longer needed a community builder as a superintendent, it needed a get-it-done taskmaster who could also wade through the world of insurance settlements, architects and legal arrangements.

It turns out Dahlstrom was that, too. She has performed beautifully in the aftermath of the tornado. In fact, it's difficult to fathom anyone else sitting in her chair right now.

That's why we need to keep her in that chair. She's been pretty up front that she'd like to serve two more years before retiring, so that seems the logical length of a contract. If she stays longer, it's a bonus, and that can be handled when the time comes. What she's asking for, to her credit, is not the ransom she could be demanding, knowing she's irreplaceable. She just wants a contract similar to what similar schools in our immediate area give their superintendents. That includes a healthy salary, health care and a reasonable severance. Her request seems more than reasonable.

We're sure the school board is well aware of this too, and would eventually get the contract done with Dahlstrom. But let's consider what our world would look like if she felt cornered and had to take another job: the school board would have to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for a new leader, that leader would take months if not a year to get up to speed, and we'd probably end up paying her or him a similar amount to what Dahlstrom is asking to lure them here. Let's be real: the Wadena-Deer Creek job is going to be a very labor-intensive one for the next two years, and we're going to have to pay anyone their market value to get them here.

Seems a lot easier to keep a wonderful superintendent who comes with a bonus: she's also a wonderful person and we'd miss her terribly if she went anywhere else.

Let's not let another week pass before we get Dahlstrom locked into this job for two more years. We need her.

The Pioneer Journal editorial represents the voice of the newspaper's editorial board. Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher.