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Carlton selects new superintendent

After many months of searching and interviewing, the Carlton School Board finally had narrowed their choice for superintendent from 16 down to two equally great candidates.

During the board meeting Monday night, the board discussed the pros and cons of each candidate and, in the end, voted for Gwen Carman to replace Peter Haapala, who had retired last year but stayed on as a part-time contracted superintendent until the school district found someone new.

The board had hired consultant Bruce Miles from Big River Group to aid in the search, which began this fall.

The board began their quest by hosting a meeting with the employees and community to find out what they wanted in a superintendent, then the real work began.

The board sorted through the 16 original candidates and narrowed it down to five. They emailed the final five candidates several questions, and each candidate responded with about 15 pages of answers, which the board members then pored over.

Finally, the board checked several references for each candidate, holding them on a conference call so everyone could participate asking questions and clarifying answers.

The school district administrators then met with the final two candidates for several interviews, plus each prepared a 20-minute presentation.

“They did more work on their own than most schools do,” Miles said.

Everyone agreed the final candidates were great options, but who would  best fit into the job and community?

“We are lucky to be in this position,” Chairperson Julianne Emerson said.

Before making a decision at the meeting, board members asked for the feedback from the administrators and Emerson obliged, reading off the information.

While they were even on many qualifications, it came down to a few details in the neck-and-neck finale.

“They are both awesome candidates,” Director Sue Karp said.

The board members agreed that Carman had solid experience with finances, grant writing, referendums and student diversity, all very important skills for a new superintendent.

“I would have more trust and confidence in Gwen organizing when it comes to the referendum,” director Michael Gay said.

Several members of the board felt that Carman would also be able to effectively deal with conflicts, if they arose.

“We put them through the hoops,” Emerson said with a laugh, “It was not an easy decision.”

Either candidate could have started sooner than Haapala’s June 30 end date.

When asked how soon she would like to see the new superintendent start, Emerson immediately replied, “Tomorrow!”

“As a board, we are appreciative of Superintendent Haapala’s hard work and efforts over the years and his assistance with the transition to Gwen,” Emerson said.

The board voted unanimously to make Carman an offer in early January 2016 to become the new superintendent for Carlton School District.

Carman is presently Region 3 Early Childhood Professional Development Facilitator with the Minnesota Regional Centers for Excellence for Young Children with Disabilities, Northland Special Education Cooperative, in Virginia, Minn. She is also presently pursuing an Ed.S. degree in education administration and Director of Special Education Certificate.