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Crookston School Board chooses superintendent to lead district

CROOKSTON--The Crookston School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to offer the job of superintendent of Crookston Public Schools to Jeremy Olson, pending a site visit to his workplace later this week. Olson is superintendent of school districts i...

Crookston school board members vote unanimously to offer Jeremy Olson, currently the superintendent in Underwood and Henning, MN, the superintendent position for the Crookston School District pending a site visit to his workplace later this week.photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Crookston school board members vote unanimously to offer Jeremy Olson, currently the superintendent in Underwood and Henning, MN, the superintendent position for the Crookston School District pending a site visit to his workplace later this week.photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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CROOKSTON-The Crookston School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to offer the job of superintendent of Crookston Public Schools to Jeremy Olson, pending a site visit to his workplace later this week.

Olson is superintendent of school districts in Underwood and Henning, Minn.

The six-member board voted to select Olson, one of two finalists for the position, after conducting second and final interviews and reviewing their rankings of each finalist.

Jeffrey Wilson, the principal at Hinckley-Finlayson Elementary School in Hinckley, Minn., was also a finalist.

Olson and Wilson also met separately with school staff members and area residents Wednesday afternoon. Feedback from those in attendance was also read to the board before the vote was taken.

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Olson's 10 years of experience as a superintendent and with a districtwide behavior plan were mentioned as particular strengths.

Olson told the board he's "still developing as a superintendent" and asked how they would help him grow professionally.

"I've worked on three referendums-all successful," he said. "That's because I've had strong, trusting relationships with the taxpayer. We only ask for what we need."

He also mentioned his strong interest in strategic planning, he said. "I'm a little bit nerdish about developing spreadsheets."

Also before the vote, School Board Chairman Frank Fee summarized conversations he had had with three references each finalist had provided.

Among the comments Fee shared were that Olson is "fair, honest and is strong with finance," Fee said. "He sets the bar high, but works with staff to achieve these goals."

Fee and fellow board member Kari Miller plan to travel to Underwood for a site visit to meet with some of Olson's co-workers.

"It's nothing against Mr. Olson," Fee said. "It's just the board doing due diligence."

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If all goes well, the board intends to meet at 7 a.m. Tuesday for a vote to offer employment to Olson. If approved, the board will begin negotiations with Olson on Wednesday, Fee said.

In his final interview with the board, Olson stressed the importance of "communicating accurately and clearly and very transparently," he said.

His experience in strategic planning, energy and leadership focus would make him a good candidate for the job, he said.

The role of superintendent is to work "with the School Board, keeping our vision together," he said. "It's not the Jeremy Olson Show. It's about what we are going to accomplish together."

He also emphasized the importance of the superintendent and the board "communicating accurately and clearly and very transparently," he said. "Here are the facts. We're all looking at the same things on the table."

Olson, who has worked in schools in North Dakota and South Dakota, has experience as a teacher and principal in elementary, middle and high schools.

In 2014, he was hired as Henning School District superintendent, adding to his responsibilities as superintendent of the Underwood School District.

Prior to his employment at Underwood, Olson served as superintendent and principal at Pingree-Buchanan School District in Pingree, N.D.

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Olson, who is married and has four daughters, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history education from Jamestown College in 2004, a master's in education leadership from UND in 2006, and a doctorate in education administration from the University of South Dakota in 2010.

He also served for two years as a high school principal at Timber Lake School District in Timber Lake, S.D., and as a high school history teacher for two years at Four Winds High School in Fort Totten, N.D.

About 1,140 students attend Crookston public schools. The district employs about 225 full- and part-time staff members.

Chris Bates, who is in his position for sixth year as superintendent, has announced his retirement effective June 30.

Fee said, if all goes as planned, Olson will begin serving as superintendent July 1.

Jeremy Olson answers questions from the Crookston School Board on Wednesday during a second interview for the job of superintendent of Crookston Public Schools. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
Jeremy Olson answers questions from the Crookston School Board on Wednesday during a second interview for the job of superintendent of Crookston Public Schools. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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