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Enrollment, other features differ among superintendent finalists' school districts

Each of the three finalists for the Grand Forks superintendent position brings a different set of experiences to the interview process, and they represent school districts with differing characteristics.

The Grand Forks School Board will interview the last of the finalists for school superintendent, Terry Brenner, an administrator with Grand Forks Public Schools, on Thursday. He is director of curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development for the district.

The other finalists, Dennis Goodwin, Camp Verde, Ariz., and James Hess, of Bemidji, both of whom are school superintendents, interviewed Monday and Tuesday, respectively, with the Grand Forks School Board.

Enrollment in Grand Forks public schools is nearly 7,500 students, about 35 percent of them qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

The district operates with an annual budget of about $104 million and owns 18 facilities.

The district employs 1,519 people, on a full- and part-time basis.

Enrollment has been rising since it hit a low of 6,752 in 2010-11. It is projected to drop slightly from 7,470 this year to 7,358 next year, and then steadily rise in successive years. Enrollment is projected to be 7,554 in 2021-22.

It contracts with Dietrich Bus Service to provide transportation for its students. The service runs dozens of bus routes daily.

Enrollment in Bemidji Area Public Schools is about 5,000, Hess said.

The school district, which employs about 900 full- and part-time employees, operates with an annual budget of about $68 million, not including capital construction funds for the Gene Dillon Elementary School. The new school will house nearly 900 fourth- and fifth-graders starting this fall.

About 48 percent of the children who attend Bemidji public schools qualify for free and reduced-price meals, Hess said.

The school district operates 19 facilities and has a fleet of 80 buses, he said.

Hess announced in August that he would retire as Bemidji's superintendent on June 30.

In the Camp Verde Unified School District, enrollment ranges between 1,500 and 1,600 students, Goodwin said.

"We're down 50 students this year, because we're in an economically depressed area," he said.

The district has about 225 full- and part-time employees, and operates with an annual budget of about $11.5 million, including federal, state and grant funds, Goodwin said.

The percentage of students who are on free and reduced-priced meals ranges between 67 and 76 percent and varies monthly, he said.

The school district owns five school buildings, a district office building, and a separate barn for its 22 buses, he said.

Goodwin also served as superintendent of Platte-Geddes School District in Platte, S.D., from 2012 to 2013, which had an enrollment of about 500, and as superintendent at New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva School District in New Richland, Minn., from 2013 to 2015, where enrollment is about 900.

He said he was interested in the superintendent position at Grand Forks because he was "looking for a larger community that has a little more to offer."

Brenner will interview with the School Board beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Everyone is invited to ask questions of Brenner at a public forum from 5 to 6 p.m. that day.

Both events take place at the Mark Sanford Education Center, 2400 47th Ave. S.

The next superintendent will replace Larry Nybladh who is retiring June 30.