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Brandl is familiar with ISD 196

Jim Brandl is coming back to where it all started.

Thirty years ago Jim Brandl was a recent college graduate was working as a substitute teacher in Independent School District 196. He figured it would be a good way to get his foot in the door for a full-time teaching job here.

But the teaching offer never came. What Brandl got instead was an offer from Terry Langager, director of the district's then-new community education department. And Brandl's classroom teaching career was effectively over.

In 1980 Brandl left Rosemount to start the community education department in the Wayzata School District. Now, freshly retired from that district, he's back in town to lead the department where he got his start.

On Monday Brandl took over as the interim director of community education in ISD 196. He'll hold the job for at least a year as the district decides how best to replace Ram Singh, who retired in June.

The district conducted a search to find Singh's replacement, but superintendent John Currie said there was no agreement on a candidate once the interviews were completed.

"We did not have a consensus from our various constituents about who our next director might be," Currie said. "It just did not seem to be the right match for the various people who had a stake in this."

When Currie started looking for an interim director his inquiries led him to Brandl, who had built a well respected department in Wayzata. He was ending his career there, but he was excited to come back to ISD 196.

"I'm very much impressed by the staff," Brandl said. "They're a good bunch of people and they seem to be very, very happy with what they do.

"I have the utmost respect for Terry Langager, who hired me, and for Ram Singh. The position was enticing because I'm still young."

This is a very different district than it was when Brandl was first here. There are about twice as many schools and the population has grown significantly.

Brandl still has to figure out the ins and outs of a community education program that is very different than the one he left three decades ago.

"I was just very amazed that 50 percent of the population here have children in school. That's twice as much as the national average," Brandl said. "That really is a factor that we didn't have in Wayzata. We were around 28-29 percent. It's a community that is vibrant. It always has been."

Currie said there are no plans yet for what to do when Brandl's year is up. There has been talk of a national search, but Currie said it might not make sense to look too hard beyond Minnesota's borders.

"Minnesota is pretty well recognized as having the best community education programs ... in the nation," Currie said.

In the meantime, Currie is happy with the director he's got.

"(Brandl) has been a great director over there," Currie said. "They're well known for their programs."