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Candidates cite support in Morris Area district

The three semifinalists for superintendent of Morris Area Schools said the school district has many positive features that attracted them to the position.

Candidates Sue Richards-Chase, the middle school principal at the Cass Lake-Bena School District, Troy Ferguson, the superintendent in the St. Francis School District, and Melissa Radeke, director of Teaching and Learning/4-6 Principal, Windom Area Schools, are scheduled for interviews with the superintendent search committee on Monday, April 8.

Ferguson will be interviewed at 12:45 p.m. and will participate in a community and staff question-and-answer forum at 4 p.m. Radeke will be interviewed at 1:50 p.m. and participate in a community and staff question-and-answer forum at 4:50 p.m. Richards-Chase will be interviewed at 2:55 p.m. and a community and staff question-and-answer forum at 4:25 p.m. The interviews and forums will be in the Morris Area High School Media Center.

Candidates underwent first-round interviews this past week.

Richards-Chase said when she interviewed with the superintendent search committee she was impressed by how well the board members got along and "how engaged they were in the (search) process."

"They really seemed to have a strong sense of caring for the district and the students in the district," Richards-Chase said.

Ferguson said the overwhelming favorable vote for the $19 million construction project illustrates how well the community supports the school district.

Radeke said the district has "impressive student achievement." She too, cited the community support for the district.

The three candidates would bring varied experience to the position.

Radeke said she has a "system-wide perspective" in her role as a director of teaching and learning.

She oversees all professional development and its budget, curriculum and instruction and its budget as well as other areas related to teaching and curriculum.

Radeke has also been a professor in the education department at the College of St. Scholastica teaching.

As a superintendent, Ferguson said, it's impossible to make a perfect decision but "you can always make the best decision." And the best decision won't always make everyone happy, he said.

He taught in special education for many years.

Richards-Chase said Cass Lake-Bena has been on the cutting edge of instructional practice work. Her experience in that area and in general teacher leadership work fits what's been happening in the Morris Area district, she said.

Morris Area has done strong curriculum work and has a strong teacher evaluation structure, Richards-Chase said.

The Morris Area District's student make-up is changing, Ferguson said. The elementary school has a minority student population of 15 percent while it's 8 to 9 percent in the high school, he said.

The district is embracing the diversity, he said. It's important to provide equity for all students which means it's important to find which method fits each student the opportunity to succeed.

A move to the Morris Area would mean a change for all candidates.

Ferguson said he chose to submit his resignation at St. Francis this past summer so the district had ample time to find his replacement. He's resigning because he and his wife decided it was time for a personal and professional change in their lives. He's pleased that the St. Francis school board asked him if he was sure he wanted to resign before his three-year contract was completed.

Like the Fergusons, Richards-Chase said her family is at the point it can move to a new area. "Our kids are grown, and, now, it's a time we (can do a new move)."

Radeke said she has several grandchildren in the Glenwood and Alexandria area which makes a move not only professionally attractive but personally attractive as well.

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