The Princeton School District will not have a permanent superintendent to replace Rick Lahn until July 1, 2013.
“The middle of the school year is a difficult time to find a new superintendent,” School Board Chairman Kathy Kraft said at the October 23 meeting of the Princeton Board of Education.
“We will look to obtain the services of an interim position and later fill the permanent position,” Kraft said.
The school board then unanimously entered into an agreement to hire Sauk Rapids-based consultant Greg Vandal of Vox Liberi to lead the search for Lahn’s successor. Lahn is leaving the Princeton School District, after eight years, to assume the role of superintendent in the Alexandria School District.
Vandal will also assist the district in its search for an interim superintendent. The cost for Vandal’s services will be at least $10,000, according to a contract entered into by Vandal and the Princeton School Board.
Because the school board could have as many as four new members come January, the current board deemed the services of a consultant as beneficial.
“With the transition of the board and transition of the superintendent, this just makes sense,” Kraft said.
“I think it’s a good investment all around,” School Board member Jeremy Miller said of Vandal’s hiring.
Vandal is the same consultant who identified Lahn as a candidate for Alexandria and earned about $15,000 for the services that resulted in Lahn’s hiring in Alexandria.
“In the superintendent world, he’s the best in the business,” Lahn said.
“You will get the best candidates because his name is attached to (the search),” Lahn said.
Vandal’s work for the district will begin right away. According to a schedule and outline of duties included in the contract with Vandal, he will post a job for the interim position almost immediately and will work to recruit candidates. He will also begin developing materials for the permanent superintendent search.
By late November, Vandal will narrow the slate of interim position applicants and arrange for interviews with a school board search committee.
By January, Vandal will have begun recruiting candidates for the permanent school board position. Applications will begin to be accepted in the school district office. By early February, Vandal will have met with school board members, administrators, staff and members of the community to develop a profile of the ideal candidate.
In mid-February, Vandal will screen potential candidates for the superintendent position. He will narrow the field of candidates to a group that meets the profile established by the groups meeting earlier in the month. The field will be narrowed further after meeting with leaders of the community groups in order to form a set of semi-finalists. In late February, Vandal will conduct detailed credential checks of the semi-finalists and then meet with the school board search committee to craft a list of potential finalists. He will also start arranging candidate interviews. Those interviews would be scheduled for March.
With interviews completed by mid-March, Vandal would then work with the school board to identify a finalist. He would then facilitate talks between the board and the candidate on an employment contract. Vandal will also notify unsuccessful candidates that they were not chosen for the job.
Prior to the school board hiring Vandal and Vox Liberi, it unanimously accepted Lahn’s resignation.
But there was silence in the board room first because no board member wanted to make the motion that would result in the eventual termination of Lahn’s employment with the school district. Lahn said that was humbling.
The memorandum of understanding grants Alexandria 10 exchange days to aid both school districts with a smooth transition in leadership.
It was an emotional moment for both Lahn and some of the board members.
“The easy part is to go out and apply for jobs,” Lahn said. “The hard part is coming back and realizing you are going to leave.”
Lahn encouraged the board to “continue to carry the torch and don’t lose focus of the mission.”
Minks thanked Lahn for all the hard work he invested in the district – eight years total, four as superintendent.
“You leave us and the district with nothing but positives to speak of,” Minks said.
Miller noted that a new superintendent should succeed in Princeton because of the accomplishments the district has attained under Lahn’s leadership. A new superintendent – all they have to do is maintain the trajectory, Miller said.