Carlton superintendent resigns, board cuts two teaching positions

The Carlton School Board will search for an interim superintendent to continue to guide the district toward consolidation with Wrenshall.

Gwen Carman
Gwen Carman

Carlton Superintendent Gwen Carman resigned her position with the district after accepting a job as superintendent of Lewiston-Altura School District in southeastern Minnesota during the Carlton School Board meeting Monday, April 20.

Carman began her tenure in Carlton in 2016 after serving as principal of Sawtooth Elementary School in Grand Marais. She oversaw the $5.5 million health and safety renovations in 2018 and over the past year has worked with board members and Wrenshall Superintendent Kim Belcastro to hammer out a facilities plan and consolidation agreement for the districts.

Carman will continue working in Carlton through the remainder of the school year. Her last day is scheduled for June 30.

The board members plan to discuss hiring Sandy Gundlach, Minnesota School Board Association director of school board services,
to find an interim superintendent at a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.

RELATED: Carlton, Wrenshall consolidation: Debt equalization bill moving through Senate


RELATED: Carlton principal resigns following DWI conviction

Board Chair LaRae Lehto said Carlton isn’t looking for a long term commitment, with the uncertainty surrounding the district and the ongoing consolidation talks.

“Working with MSBA could save us a lot of time and effort,” Lehto said. “At this point, with all of our discussions with Wrenshall and future planning and being remote like this, we just don’t have an accessibility to qualified candidates — that’s something MSBA has that we don’t have in house.”

Lehto said typically MSBA would charge $2,500 for a superintendent search. However, because of the unique situation, MSBA could charge the full amount all the way down to providing the service at no cost to the district. Gundlach could help Carlton have a new superintendent in place “in a matter of weeks,” according to Lehto.

The board also discussed renegotiating the contract of South Terrace Elementary School Principal Ben Midge. Under the restructured contract, Midge would become principal of both South Terrace and Carlton Middle and High School.

In addition, the district would seek to hire a dean of students to help with administrative duties when Midge is in another building. Midge currently serves as the Carlton activities director, but would no longer fill that role if he were the K-12 principal for the district. Lehto said the district would look to combine the activities director role with the dean of students or post the position internally to see if another faculty member wanted to step in.

Teacher contracts not renewed

The board also voted not to renew two teachers’ contracts — Andrew Schmitz and Luke Richards — after projections show enrollment dropping by up to 45 students in 2020-21. The district needs to reduce spending for next school year by approximately $350,000.

Three other teachers’ contracts were also not renewed, but not for budgetary reasons. Those teachers are all teaching out of their field or do not have a teaching license. The state of Minnesota requires the district not to renew their contracts, but for the school to repost the positions in the attempt to find a licensed candidate.


Carman said one of the teachers — business and science teacher Robert Petko — has a four-year degree but does not have a teaching license.

“The unusual thing about Mr. Petko is he has a four-year degree in astrophysics, but he does not have a teaching license,” Carman said. “He loves teaching, but it would be quite an undertaking for him to get a teaching license. Carlton is fortunate to have him in the classroom, but we are required by statute to non-renew him, open up the position and see if we get any qualified candidates.”

Petko and two special education teachers — Erik Lunberg and Robin Williams — who are teaching outside their licensed fields can reapply for the positions when they are posted.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
What To Read Next
Get Local