West Fargo narrows school superintendent finalists to two
WEST FARGO -- The West Fargo School Board narrowed on Friday, March 23, its superintendent finalists from three to two. The two finalists are Bethe Slette and Ben Johnson.Slette is the West Fargo assistant superintendent of elementary education a...
WEST FARGO -- The West Fargo School Board narrowed on Friday, March 23, its superintendent finalists from three to two. The two finalists are Bethe Slette and Ben Johnson.
Slette is the West Fargo assistant superintendent of elementary education and Johnson is the assistant superintendent of education in Bismarck.
The board at a morning meeting chose to not advance Pelican Rapids (Minn.) Superintendent Randi Anderson, who is also a finalist for the superintendent position in Moorhead.
“I’m personally not ready to go down to one candidate today,” board member Patti Stedman said Friday.
The board is expected to reach out to references over the weekend and may choose a new superintendent at its meeting Monday, March 26.
While the majority of the board said Johnson and Slette were their top two candidates, Board Member Allan Skramstad said Slette was not among his top choices.
“Personally, Beth was status quo to me. She’s been in the district for 25 years. Are we just going to go with the status quo?” Skramstad said.
However, Stedman said the district has gone through much change during Slette’s tenure and she has ushered in some successful curriculum plans.
“Beth can make unpopular decisions and still get everyone on board,” Stedman said.
Skramstad said he chose Anderson because she currently serves as superintendent and she also made a point to recognize individuals she came in contact with.
“She is a superintendent. Even though it is a smaller district, she has sat in the chair and recognizes what needs to be done as a superintendent,” Skramstad said.
Sheyenne High School students who attended the Friday meeting said Johnson appeared to make an effort to say hello and meet each student when he toured the school during his interview, which was appreciated.
Each candidate spent a day in the district this week, meeting with the school board, students in grades five through 12 and with about 20 community members.
Many of the staff members who met with candidates have worked directly with Slette.
Slette began teaching in 1992 in Minnesota and came to West Fargo Public Schools in 1994, where she served as a teacher, transition coordinator, middle school assistant principal, elementary principal and director of assessments and federal programs.
She became assistant superintendent for elementary education in 2013. Slette earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from North Dakota State University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Johnson began teaching in 2002 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He became assistant principal at Fort Dodge Senior High School in 2007 and a principal at Boone High School in 2012. In 2014, he became assistant superintendent for secondary schools at Bismarck Public Schools. He has also served as a consultant for the Iowa Department of Education and as an adjunct professor at two universities. Johnson has a doctorate of philosophy, educational leadership and policy studies from Iowa State University.
Bismarck Superintendent Tamara Uselman announced her resignation in February, which is effective June 30. The Bismarck School Board decided it will hire an external interim superintendent for one year before finding a permanent superintendent.
West Fargo superintendent David Flowers announced his plan to retire on June 30 in December, shortly after Fargo Superintendent Jeff Schatz and Moorhead Superintendent Lynne Kovash announced they are also retiring from their respective districts.
Flowers, who has been West Fargo superintendent since 2010, currently earns about $234,000 in salary and benefits.
The West Fargo School Board interviewed five candidates via teleconferencing on March 6-8 out of the 15 applications received by the Feb. 18 deadline. Slette was the only internal candidate to apply.