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DL School Board hires new superintendent

His enthusiasm was infectious -- so much so that the Detroit Lakes School Board wasted very little time in offering a superintendent contract to the third and final candidate interviewed for the position on Wednesday night.

"I'm so impressed with his manner, his integrity -- he really gets his passion (for edu-cation) across," said board member LuAnn Porter. "That's a gift."

Mark Adams, current super-intendent of Deer River Public Schools, was unanimously approved as the board's candidate of choice a little over an hour after the interviews were completed, in a special meeting called to review the three finalists' interviews.

Though, as DL High School Principal Steve Morben noted, "we interviewed three quality candidates," the board unani-mously agreed that Adams' ob-vious passion and enthusiasm for his work put him in "a tier above" the other two.

It was only a few hours later that Adams accepted the offer, pending a required background check and agreement on contract terms.

Adams said in a Friday tele-phone interview that he ex-pected to be at the board's April 10 meeting to formally accept the contract.

"I'm very excited," he added. "I'm thrilled, privileged and honored to be part of that ad-ministrative team, and the (De-troit Lakes) community."

Adams noted Friday that this wasn't the first time he had sought a position within the De-troit Lakes district.

"I interviewed for a principal-ship there about seven years ago," he said. "I was very im-pressed with the district, and the community as a whole."

With his current three-year contract at Deer River nearing an end, Adams didn't hesitate to submit his application for the superintendency at Detroit Lakes when he learned it was available. His quick tour of the district prior to Wednesday's interview reaffirmed his earlier positive impression.

"The true commitment and passion centered around making difference in lives of the young people we serve was absolutely pouring out of everyone I talked to," Adams said, noting that he had also spent some time chat-ting with local business owners and other members of the com-munity. "It felt like a family place, where people settle and put down roots -- very wel-coming and inviting.

Adams' admiration was re-turned in full by all members of the superintendent search com-mittee, which besides all seven members of the school board, also included Morben and kin-dergarten instructor Denise Kettner.

"He's not just a leader, he's an innovator," said School Board Chairman Dr. Thomas Seaworth, summing up the committee's impressions of Ad-ams.

Adams has had five years of teaching experience and another 10 years of administrative expe-rience, though his appointment as superintendent at Deer River in 2003 was his first in that po-sition.

During his interview, he talked about how much he loved being involved with kids, as both a teacher and a coach.

"It's only been the last couple of years, since I became super-intendent, that I've stepped back from coaching, because of the demands of the job," he said.

Adams said he felt being in-volved in the community was "critical."

"If you're not speaking, someone else is speaking for you," he said.

But in all his activities, Ad-ams noted, "My focal point has always been kids. I get up every morning impassioned just to go to work -- to make a differ-ence... I will offer 125 percent to whatever system I belong to."

Other candidates interviewed for the DL superintendent's po-sition included Douglas Froke, superintendent of Windom Pub-lic Schools, and Kevin Wellen, superintendent of Melrose Area Schools.

Both men had an impressive list of qualifications.

Froke had the most adminis-trative experience of the three, having spent seven years as su-perintendent of Fulda Public Schools and another two years as superintendent at Windom (one year, 2003-2004, was spent serving as a superintendent for both districts). He holds a mas-ters degree in school admini-stration from Northern State College in Aberdeen, S.D., and a specialist's degree in school administration from the Univer-sity of South Dakota.

During his Monday inter-view, Froke discussed the im-portance of maintaining integrity as an educational leader.

"Integrity is huge -- that's one of the things you have to have as a superintendent," he said, noting that he defines in-tegrity as maintaining a focus on "working in the best interests of kids."

He noted that the aspect of education that excited him the most was, "Seeing kids succeed -- that's why we're in this busi-ness."

Froke also noted that he felt it was part of the superintendent's role to be "a cheerleader for the district," but also "to make sure we have something to cheer about."

Wellen, meanwhile, came into the district with two years of experience as superintendent at Melrose. His resume also in-cluded seven years of experi-ence as a high school principal and another six years of teaching experience before that. He holds a master's degree and a six-year certification in school admini-stration from St. Cloud State University.

He said the most exciting aspect of education, for him, was getting "the kids who don't want to learn" engaged in the education process. He said he is so involved with his work that he spends "a minimum of two nights a week, and a maximum of seven" at the school.

"If I'm not at a meeting, I'm at a ball game, and if I'm not at a ball game, I'm at a musical event," he said, noting that he feels school events such as bas-ketball and football games are the perfect opportunity for him to interact with the community and get to know the people in it.

Each candidate was inter-viewed for a little over an hour, on successive evenings, and each had the opportunity to tour the district and meet with staff prior to the interview.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454