Following three hours of finalist interviews and about a half hour of deliberations Wednesday evening, the Detroit Lakes School Board chose Rocori Middle and High School Principal Mark Jenson to be the district's new superintendent — but the vote was not unanimous.
The motion to hire Jenson passed on a 5-1 vote, with School Board Vice Chairman John Steffl as the lone board member to vote against it at the Feb. 5 special meeting.
While Steffl said that he liked Jenson, he voted against the motion after saying that he was "not quite sure he (Jenson) is ready" to be a superintendent, and felt he lacked the necessary experience to lead the district.
Board Chairwoman Amy Erickson disagreed, noting that she was struck by an earlier statement from Jenson that "leadership is not a title," and felt that he had been the candidate who held her attention the most during the interview process.
Jenson has been the high school principal at Rocori since 2007; in 2012, he became the middle school principal as well. He was also an English teacher at Moorhead Public Schools for 10 years.
Earlier, Steffl had voiced his support of another candidate: East Grand Forks Superintendent Mike Kolness. Steffl said he felt Kolness' experience as a superintendent was the deciding factor. He added that while some board members had felt Kolness' responses to the questions had been a bit too succinct, he actually liked that Kolness was "short and to the point" in his answers.
"I like (Jenson's) energy and charisma," said board member Kylie Johnson, who subsequently made the motion to hire Jenson. She added that she had been impressed by his passion, and liked the fact that he expressed his love for education.
"I liked that he worked his way up through the ranks," added board member Jane Foltz.
Earlier in the meeting, the board had eliminated a third candidate from contention: Malone Intermediate School Principal Donita Stepan from Prescott, Wis., who was also a finalist for the superintendent's position in Hermantown, Minn.
Erickson said Thursday, Feb. 6, that Jenson had accepted the position.
"I just got off the phone with him," she said, "and he very happily accepted our offer of a three year contract with beginning salary of $140,000 the first year, and a $3,000 increase for each of the next two years."
The district's current superintendent, Doug Froke, announced last October that he will be leaving his position at the end of this school year. His last day on the job will be June 30.