REGIONAL— Reggie Engebritson is the new superintendent for the St. Louis County Schools. The ISD 2142 school board voted 6-1 last week to hire Engebritson on a permanent basis, although the details …
REGIONAL— Reggie Engebritson is the new superintendent for the St. Louis County Schools. The ISD 2142 school board voted 6-1 last week to hire Engebritson on a permanent basis, although the details of a planned three-year contract have yet to be worked out. Engebritson’s current interim contract runs through June 30, and her new contract would begin July 1.
Engebritson’s hiring didn’t come, however, without some debate on the process.
“I am concerned by the attitude regarding the lack of a complete and professional search, regardless of minimum requirements, or advice of the MSBA,” said board member Chris Koivisto, who was the lone vote against the decision. “Furthermore, I think by extending the timeline, the board would have shown a greater responsibility and done our due diligence in pulling from a diverse pool of candidates…Indeed Reggie has a competent resume, but I would have liked to have vetted the position through a suitable pool of candidates. So, I can’t support this.”
Koivisto stressed that his position was based on his concerns about the lack of a hiring process, not a reflection on his opinion of Engebritson. “This no vote shouldn’t be misconstrued as a vote of no confidence in Reggie as a candidate,” he said.
Board member Dan Manick said he agreed with Koivisto’s concern, seeing it as an opportunity lost to the board. “I was looking forward to the process and hoped the position would have been posted for a longer period of time. I wanted to see what the outside world thinks of our school district,” he said. “My support for Reggie hasn’t wavered, I was just really looking forward to seeing how many applicants we got, to use it as a measuring stick.”
But board member Patrick Christensen suggested a broader search would have wasted time, since most of the board was already firm in their desire to hire Engebritson. “What is the point of making people drive up from the cities to interview for something they’re not going to get…and we would have arranged to spend a lot of time, basically wasting time interviewing people we really weren’t going to hire because people were sold on what we were going to do.”
Koivisto rebuked Christensen, telling him, “I think it’s offensive that you are discounting my opinion and my ability to vet candidates, and that perhaps a candidate would come here and further change your mind based on exposure to those candidates.” Christensen responded, “Others had stated they were ready to hire her on the spot, some time ago, because of that I felt that if we were going to open this up for two months, we were wasting a lot of time.”
Manick said he recalled a plan to conduct a broader search. “The last time we met as a board, we hired Reggie, and then we discussed a timeline, and there was kind of a defined process we were going to go with and we were looking at posting in February,” he said.
Board member Christine Taylor said that she thought the process got condensed in the end. “I’m not offended that you think our opinions could not change if we were given other candidates,” she told Christensen. “I would assure you that if we were to bring people here to speak with us, my mind would be open. I don’t think it would have been a waste of time…I recognize Chris’s concerns, and share them to some extent.” Regardless, she added, “I feel that the district has locked ourselves into a very good superintendent.”
Engebritson began working for ISD 2142 in January, replacing former Superintendent Steve Sallee, who left mid-contract for a position in Rochester.
Engebritson is a long-time educator and administrator, having served for the past ten years as executive director of the Northland Learning Center, a special education cooperative with eleven area independent school districts. Engebritson studied special education and received her Master’s degree as well as her Administrative License from St. Cloud State University. She went on to obtain her Doctor of Education in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota.
Engebritson has described her management style as one that focuses on leadership development for principals and teachers, focusing on student-centered classrooms.
In her superintendent’s report, Engebritson updated the board on the interworkings between the 2142 and Mountain Iron-Buhl school districts. concerning the possibility of sharing the superintendent position with MIB. Board members expressed some confusion about the actual job description, chain of command, and the role of agreements that are already in place for the principal and assistant principal positions. By adding a superintendent to the mix, some members questioned if this was really becoming a consolidation.
Last summer, the board approved a list of shared service agreements for the 2017-2018 school year with MIB, calling for Kristi Berlin to also serve as MIB elementary principal and curriculum director. The terms of the agreement show MIB paying the St. Louis County Schools 45 percent of the district cost for salary and benefits, estimated at $58,724.86. Last fall, the board also approved a $10,000 one-time shared stipend agreement between the district and MIB, acknowledging Kristi Berlin for “going above-and-beyond what was expected of her in her 2017-2018 role as elementary school principal and K-12 curriculum director for MIB schools.” Another shared services agreement calls for 2142 to provide MIB administration payroll and administration of ACA reporting. In return, MIB will pay the district $30,600 for the payroll portion and $5,100 for ACA reporting. The board also agreed to provide MIB with a licensed school nurse’s services, with MIB paying the district $10,265.
“I know Senator Bakk wants this to happen,” Engebritson said. “He said point blank this is not a consolidation. It’s a collaboration.”
MIB hoped to have a plan in place by March 10 for their board to vote on the proposal and negotiation package. The 2142 board thought that the plan would not be in place by then. Koivisto expressed hesitation in sharing the positions, and didn’t want the 2142 superintendent being spread too thin. Ultimately the board wanted to see the plan for an agreement showing a job description, command chain, as well as cost and expense. Member Troy Swanson said, “In the end we just need to see a picture of what the net benefit will be to our district.”
In other business, the board:
•Approved an online preventative maintenance work order program at a prorated cost of $27,244 for the first year, and $3,660 for the second year. “SchoolDude” provides a tracking system for equipment maintenance and ensuring accountability. The program generates small repair work orders. Grounds and Facilities Director Tony Buccanero also noted the work orders could be handled by a new assistant, a position he is developing a job description for.
•Approved capital roofing projects for NE Range and Tower-Soudan schools. The project involves a partial roof replacement of the existing roof at both NE Range and TS. The project is estimated at $1.819 million for NE Range and $187,849 at Tower-Soudan. The estimate includes partial replacement of decking, and the price could increase if there is additional “bad decking” once the roof has been removed.
•Approved an employee benefit for afterschool enrichment programs that are run through community ed.
•Approved a new teachers’ contract with Michelle Phillips.
•Approved an MOU for Cook Hospital and Care Center and North Woods School.