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May 30, 2020

Jamie Taylor/river news

Eric Burke, principal at Port Washington High School, answers a question during the public/staff portion of his interview session Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. The school board interviewed three finalists for the district superintendent position Tuesday and ultimately voted to ask Burke to return for a second interview on Feb. 4. He is the only candidate to be invited for a second interview.
Jamie Taylor/river news

Eric Burke, principal at Port Washington High School, answers a question during the public/staff portion of his interview session Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. The school board interviewed three finalists for the district superintendent position Tuesday and ultimately voted to ask Burke to return for a second interview on Feb. 4. He is the only candidate to be invited for a second interview.
1/30/2020 7:30:00 AM
Port Washington principal survives first round of superintendent selection process
Board calls Burke back for second interview

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter


The three finalists for the position of School District of Rhinelander superintendent participated in three 45-minute interviews Tuesday afternoon and evening as the school board moves closer to naming a successor to the retiring Kelli Jacobi.

Following an extended closed session discussion held after the interview sessions were concluded, the board voted to extend a second interview to Port Washington High School principal Eric Burke, according to Bruce Miles of Big River Group, the consultant the district hired to lead the search for the next superintendent.

Burke's second interview is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4 in the Professional Development Center.

This second interview will be open to the public, but the public will not be able to take part in the questioning.

After the open session, the board will go into closed session to deliberate.

Also interviewed Tuesday evening were Maggie Peterson, the district's director of learning support and Pat Devine, superintendent of the Waconia School District, Waconia, Minn.

The search process began after Jacobi announced her plan to retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Jacobi, who has served as superintendent since 2013 when she took over for Roger Erdahl, made that announcement last March.

Each of the three finalists went through a grueling series of 45-minute interviews Tuesday. First they were interviewed by a 10-member group of district administrators and building principals, then they faced another session in front of the general public and district staff where the finalists each answered 20-question that group came up with on their own.

Finally, each candidate answered a set of questions from the board. Each candidate was asked the same questions by all three groups.

After the last interview, representatives from the administration team offered feedback on each of the three candidates, listing pros and cons on a series of areas corresponding to their questioning. Then Mike Beighley from Big River Group offered feedback from what he observed during the public/staff portion of the process. In both cases the board received all notes compiled by the groups.

In October, the board set the salary range for the next superintendent at between $135,000-$170,000. Jacobi currently makes $136,774 annually in salary. However, school board president Ron Counter noted at the October special meeting that she has declined a couple of raises during her tenure.

Back in October when Miles first meet with the board, he said his goal was to have a signed contract with the next superintendent by Feb. 1. He started by gathering input from the board, public and district staff on what qualities they wanted to see in the next superintendent.

Miles used that criteria to help narrow down the applicants to a smaller group who were sent a list of prepared questions to return for the board. The board then looked at those responses, along with versions of their resumes that had been striped of identifying information, to arrive at the three finalists.

Not knowing the names or positions of the candidates would keep the board members from "investigating" the candidates using the internet, he noted.

The board members didn't learn the identity of the finalists until they were chosen. Blue River Group also conducted the search in 2013 that led to Jacobi's hiring using the same process to screen the candidates.

A full story on the search will be published in the Saturday edition of the River News.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernewsonline.com.





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