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Brenner selected as next superintendent

Terry Brenner, director of curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development, Grand Forks Public Schools

The Grand Forks School Board voted to approve Terry Brenner to fill the position of superintendent of schools at its regular meeting Monday.

The selection of Brenner, director of curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development for Grand Forks Public Schools, was approved by a vote of eight to one.

Katie Dachtler voted against the motion to select Brenner, citing concerns about Brenner's response to her question, in his interview with the board Thursday, about how to achieve equity in the school district.

Other finalists for the position were Dennis Goodwin, superintendent of Camp Verde Unified Schools in Camp Verde, Ariz., and James Hess, superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools.

With this vote, Brenner is the finalist with whom the board wishes to enter into contract negotiations.

"We have a very strong candidate, and I fully anticipate that we will come to agreement" on the contract, which will be negotiated in the next several weeks, School Board President Doug Carpenter said.

Several board members said they received many emails and phone calls in support of Brenner.

Meegen Sande said, although she received some negative emails, "I received far more positive emails about Dr. Brenner."

Cynthia Shabb said that, of the three finalists who were interviewed by the School Board, "Dr. Brenner definitely shined (because of) his professionalism, his entrance plan, communication style.

"He's a hard worker, and he collaborates, to a certain point," Shabb said.

Eric Lunn said, "Unfortunately for this school district, there is no ideal candidate, no perfect candidate out there."

"I'd like to quash a rumor," Lunn said. "This was no pre-baked deal. If we felt we didn't have the candidate, we'd say, 'Let's start over.' "

Others agreed.

Matt Spivey said that "if the right candidate wasn't here, I was comfortable" with not selecting the superintendent at Monday's meeting.

Sande said, "I, in no way, came into this thinking we should go with an internal candidate."

Further, she said, "I got negative emails and calls about all the candidates. It would be hard to find someone who, somewhere down the line, hasn't made people really mad. That comes with being a leader."

Spivey said, in the interviews with the finalists, he "wanted to be wowed, impressed, excited.

"It was obvious from the interview that Dr. Brenner was excited about education and is vested in the district and the community," he said.

"I truly believe Dr. Brenner is the best candidate," Spivey said. "I was wowed by the overwhelming information I got from the district. ... I felt there was a lot of support for Dr. Brenner."

Carpenter said that, "in my opinion, Dr. Brenner stood a head above all of the other candidates that we talked to. He answered the questions much better than the others. Dr. Brenner does have a vision.

"Across the board, I received many more comments that were positive (about Brenner) from teachers, students and others."

Dachtler said, when asking Brenner about "what ideal equity would look like, he didn't give me an answer. He kind of fished for what I wanted to hear."

"I still believe an outside candidate would be best for moving the district forward," she said. "I do not feel confident petitioning for any of the finalists."

Dachtler said the finalists were "not the right ones at this time" and recommended that the board consider hiring an interim superintendent to give the board time to look for other candidates.

Lunn said the School Board has the authority to fire the superintendent if that person's "performance is not what we want. We're not 'stuck' with someone for eight to 10 years."

Finalists were interviewed by the School Board and questioned in public forums last week. Each also met with groups representing district staff members, students and community leaders last week.

Input from those forums were given to the board before each finalist's formal interview with the board.

In other news, the School Board heard a report about the district's policy concerning low or negative meal accounts from Emily Karel, director of the Child Nutrition Program.

The board decided against approving changes in the policy until its March meeting.

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