School leaders getting scarce in Minnesota
MANKATO, Minn. -- Five years ago, Keith Klein retired after 25 years as superintendent of the Pelican Rapids School District. Since then, Klein has served as interim superintendent in the Barnesville School District; interim superintendent in the St.
MANKATO, Minn. -- Five years ago, Keith Klein retired after 25 years as superintendent of the Pelican Rapids School District.
Since then, Klein has served as interim superintendent in the Barnesville School District; interim superintendent in the St. Clair School District; and now, interim superintendent for United South Central.
In addition, Klein and a handful of fellow retired administrators run a consulting firm that advises school districts in their superintendent searches.
And as some school districts are finding out, it's a good thing people such as Klein don't stay retired very long.
"There are very few candidates for superintendent positions," Klein said. "It's not the job it used to be."
In turn, school districts have had to get creative.
Around the state, dozens of districts are contracting part-time administrative services, especially for management positions in business and human resources. Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Superintendent Les Norman announced in 2007 that he would retire in June of 2008.
But he's coming back on a part-time basis for the 2008-09 school year. McLeod West, which has been long embroiled in an arduous search for a superintendent, contracted with Le Center Superintendent Tony Boyer for part-time services this year.
Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, said there are a few reasons for the decline in qualified school administration candidates. Not the least of those reasons, he said, is the increasingly political nature of the job.
First to take fall
In this era of perpetual referendums and budget challenges, the superintendent is viewed more and more as a public official. And just like local politicians, superintendents are the first to take the fall when something goes wrong. Since superintendents work on a contract basis with no tenure, the lack of job security has become a concern for those thinking about a career in administration.
"The job of school administration has become much more challenging the last few years," Kyte said. "It's hard to motivate people to go into that field." And the trend extends to other leadership positions as well.
The Minnesota Valley Education District -- which provides special education services to several area school districts, including St. Peter -- generated about a dozen applications for its vacant director position this summer. Usually, there are two or three times that many applications.
The Mankato Area School District had two high school principal vacancies this summer, with East's Don Poplau retiring and West's Bruce Borchers taking a job in the Anoka-Hennepin district. Typically, said district human resources director Joanne May, Mankato receives between 40 and 60 applications for a high school principal vacancy. This summer, fewer than 20 were received.
"There were far fewer candidates," May said. "We had better numbers for assistant principals, but those higher level vacancies are getting more difficult to fill."
Sandy Gundlach works for the Minnesota School Boards Association and advises school boards during superintendent searches. She said a lack of people entering the field combined with challenging economic and political climates have made searches more difficult -- but not impossible.
By conducting searches as early in the year as possible and by having a process in place for the actual work of the search, Gundlach said districts can increase their chances for success.