REGIONAL— The St. Louis County School District is in the market for a new superintendent after current super, Steve Sallee, announced he’d be leaving at the end of December to assume a new …
REGIONAL— The St. Louis County School District is in the market for a new superintendent after current super, Steve Sallee, announced he’d be leaving at the end of December to assume a new position in southeastern Minnesota.
The announcement wasn’t a total surprise to board members, since Sallee had let them know last week that he was interviewing for the position of executive director for the Southeast Service Cooperative, based in Rochester. Board members expressed their disappointment, nonetheless, noting that Sallee had accomplished a lot since taking the reins of the district in 2014, at a time when the district was still in an uproar over a controversial restructuring and missteps by the prior superintendent, Teresa Knife Chief.
Board member Troy Swanson said he wasn’t looking forward to the search for a replacement, which will get underway on Monday, with a 6 p.m. study session at the district office. Swanson lauded Sallee’s work for the district. “He’s great with communications,” said Swanson. “I really like what we’re doing with social media. I also like that he talks to the seniors in every school to find out what we can do better.”
Dan Manick, who voted not to accept Sallee’s resignation, agreed that the district will have big shoes to fill. “I hate to see him leave,” said Manick, “he was really good at just about every aspect of the job.” Manick said Sallee had demonstrated an ability to get a sometimes fractious district to work together. “Everybody is just working their butts off, and with a positive attitude,” he said.
For Sallee, the change means a return to familiar stomping grounds.
He had previously served as superintendent in the Southland Public School District and the Leroy-Ostrander Public Schools, both located in southeastern Minnesota, before coming to the St. Louis County School District.
Looking back on his time in the district, Sallee said he was pleased that most of the controversies that had roiled the district for several years seem to have died down. “There were a lot of very unhappy people here when I arrived, for a variety of reasons, but for the most part I don’t hear a lot of that anymore,” he said. “The school board has been extremely supportive and I have a great team of principals and district office staff. They deserve the credit for things running smoothly. All I did was step in and empower them to do their jobs.”
Looking down the road, Sallee said the district needs to continue to focus on improving academic achievement. “A key component to that is going to be keeping this team of principals in place and teacher retention. I believe that’s a big reason Tower has been so successful. Those teachers stay there. We need to see more of that throughout the district.” Sallee said the district is also trying to do more to support younger teachers. “I hope that will help,” he said.
As for advice for any incoming superintendent, Sallee said: “Support the staff that you have and let them do their jobs. They will keep this place running smoothly if you support them.”
Sallee’s departure mid-year will make it difficult for the district to find a permanent replacement immediately, which means the board will likely turn to an interim superintendent through the end of the school year. Swanson said he expects the board will reach out to the Minnesota School Boards Association for assistance in their search for new leadership. “I’ll be looking for somebody with experience, someone who is a great communicator, and someone who understands technology,” said Swanson. “Also, someone who understands marketing. I really think that’s made a difference.”