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Board hires firm to find superintendent

The District 196 school board has tabbed Kenneth LaCroix to spearhead its search for a new school superintendent.

After interviewing three search firms, the board unanimously approved the selection of LaCroix. The district will pay LaCroix $12,500 for his services at it seeks a replacement for outgoing superintendent John Currie, whose retirement is effective at the end of the current school year.

LaCroix was chosen from a group that also included School Exec Connect and Springsted, Inc.

"I think he was the person that was the best fit," board chairperson Mike Roseen said. "He is down to earth. He's a lot like us, I think. I feel he will have 100 percent attention for us, and his whole efforts will be focused on our district. He has a good reputation."

A bit of familiarity with the district might have helped as well.

Before Monday's interview, LaCroix had already met with Currie to talk about the district. He also knew several of the board members, including vice chairperson Jackie Magnuson.

Magnuson is District 196's representative on the Minnesota School Board Association, and LaCroix helped the MSBA in hiring an executive director.

"What you see with Ken is what you get," Magnuson said during the board's discussion. "He didn't cut corners and he knew his stuff. I thought the process was clean and crisp."

LaCroix has over 41 years of experience in education, working as a teacher and principal in Burnsville, assistant superintendent in Stillwater, and 22 years as superintendent in Hastings. He has also conducted 27 superintendent searches for districts within Minnesota.

His experience and straightforward approach were two of the board's reasons for selecting LaCroix.

"My style is less formal," LaCroix said during his interview.

LaCroix mentioned the importance of starting the search immediately, and believes the district could have its replacement within six to eight weeks.

"There is going to be competition for these openings," LaCroix said. "I think we can accelerate and expedite the process. First of all, I will be actively recruiting.

"We won't miss any steps. We will just shorten the time in between. I think you could do the first interviews, and then the next week bring them back in for second interviews. Downtime is not good for anyone."

However the board stressed that whoever it chose to oversee the process, the process will be conducted as the board sees fit.

The board members want community involvement and would like the process to be thorough.

"We as a board have to decide what we are looking for, and do what we have to do for the community," said board member Kevin Sampers.

Ultimately, after discussion, the board decided LaCroix would be the person to help with the search with the caveat that he follow the board and community's wishes.

"With the MSBA he sat down, gave us his suggestions and said, 'It's your turn," Magnuson said.

Curries' six-year tenure as superintendent will end on June 30.

Mass notification service launched

District 196 launched its new SchoolConnects mass notification service with a test call Feb. 2.

The test call was sent to nearly all of the 60,000 unique numbers listed in the district's student information system.

The service will be used to inform parents of changes to the school-day service, including weather-related changes. In the case of weather-related changes, the service will only call the primary, home phone number listed for each student, with one call per student.

Board approves 2008-09 budget

In other action, the board also approved the final 2008-09 budget.

The district's total budget was #345 million, with a nearly $297 million general fund.

The fourth largest public school district in Minnesota, ISD 196 had 27,683 students

listed on its official Oct. 1 enrollment report.