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Superintendent has Frazee roots

Terry Karger has been named the new superintendent of the Frazee-Vergas School District. He used to be a principal there.

Terry Karger is returning to his old stamping grounds.

The Frazee-Vergas School Board offered Karger, a former principal at Frazee-Vergas, the superintendent position Tuesday night after a second round of interviews. Karger accepted the position.  “I’m excited,” he said after a round of applause.

Before the decision was made Tuesday, the board went through a second round of interviews with Karger, principal of Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Schools, and Brian Clarke, who is the superintendent at Fertile-Beltrami Schools. Board members also did a site visit to each candidate’s district.

The board asked the two men a series of questions, and then the public was welcome to ask questions of the candidates, though few did.

Asking questions

Board Chairman Matt Bauer asked how each candidate felt about the school’s plan to implement one-to-one technology. Both men agreed that it is important to the district.

“Technology is a passion that I have,” Clarke said. “(Everything) hinges and relies on technology but it doesn’t replace teaching.”  It supplements it, he added.

He said that the district needs to be financially responsible when it comes to implementing the technology, and that the district needs to keep evolving in the technology field to keep kids engaged because they are learning technology at such a young age.  “It’s such a great opportunity for our kids and our teachers,” he said.

Karger said that the district needs to “make sure we’ve done our groundwork” and be able to show the public the benefits to the students to have this technology implemented.  He added that it’s important for teachers to have a continued support system for the products, and to make sure the district looks at the big picture because some ideas can start out great and fizzle over time.

“The crucial part is long-term support. Be flexible and be supportive,” he said.

This fall there will be some staffing changes at the school. Activities Director Dave Trautman is retiring. He serves as a secondary Dean of Students also. The district is looking at reworking his position to be an activities director/student support specialist. Bauer questioned the candidates on what they thought of that move.  Karger said that to make it work, the board would need to determine that after the activities director portion of the position was taken care of, “what are the needs of your district?” for the support specialist portion of the position.

He said that he finds value in having a staff member in charge of tracking truancy, and also someone working on credit recovery for students missing too many credits to pass a grade or graduate for one reason or another.  Clarke said if it’s the right person, they can certainly do fill rolls, but it’s all about finding that right person.

Another staffing change will be moving the elementary dean of students position to a principal position, which will be happening partly because of the state mandated teacher evaluations that need to be done by a certified staff member.

Both candidates agreed that it was a good move for the district to make that change to principal since the state was putting that into place in the future anyway.

No matter what the position though, both candidates said that when hiring someone for a job, specifically a teacher in this example, they look for the passion behind the potential employee.  When asked what he looks for in a teacher to hire, Clarke said, “A passion for what they’re doing.”  "That sense and drive for what they do,” Karger said. “You go into education because you love kids.”

He said hiring the perfect teacher to connect with kids shows because achievement goes up as well.  “Our most precious resource is our kids,” Clarke said.

Teacher Jane Kunz asked Clarke how he would promote the Frazee-Vergas District since there are other options with open enrollment districts being so close together.  “I’m always a promoter of the district, staff and community,” he said. “It’s one of the easiest parts of my job.”

He said that the Frazee-Vergas community is tight and that is a big benefit to the district as well.

The two men were also given time to ask the school board any questions. Clarke asked a few questions about the community and what board members are most proud of at the district.  Both men also asked what was expected of them, and the answers were the same — honesty, openness and to keep the district moving forward as it has been the last two years under interim superintendent Chuck Cheney.

Deciding on a candidate

“Obviously, it’s hard,” Bauer said when it came time for the board to discuss which candidate to hire. “There are pros and cons for each.”

He said that both were great candidates and that he would be happy with either of them leading the district.  “I lean toward Terry though,” he said. “I have no problem with either. It’s a win-win though because they’re both great.”

Some of the board members worked with or knew Karger in the past and it gave him a bit of an advantage.  “I know what I’m getting with Terry,” Ken Fett said, but he’d be happy with either candidate, he added.  “Karger is a better fit for our community,” Jim Nelson said.

For others who didn’t know Karger, like Rich Ziegler, it was a tougher decision.  “After tonight, I’m more confused as to where I would come down on this fence,” he said.  But, he said that he leaned more toward Karger, as did Steve Jepson and Tammie Nunn.  “There were a couple key points Terry stuck out on,” she said of the interviews.

Don Triegelaff said that he didn’t know Karger before the interview process and was really impressed with the site visit to Clarke’s district.  “I found that he was respected and liked,” he said.  That being said, he voted in favor of hiring Karger because the district has a “known commodity with Terry.”

The board offered the job to Karger and has started the contract negotiation process. They plan to meet Friday to hash out more details of the contract.  The contract will then need to be approved by the board as a whole, possibly at Monday’s regular meeting.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.