The St. Michael-Albertville School Board walked into tonight’s meeting with plans to choose a superintendent, which they did, voting unanimously to hire Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault, St. Michael-Albertville’s current Albertville Primary principal and curriculum and staff development coordinator.
However, the board expected to choose from three finalists, but after board chair Doug Birk delivered a bombshell of an announcement at the beginning of the meeting, they ended up choosing from just two of the three finalists selected just a few days ago.
Birk shared information, which he said he found out that very afternoon, that one of the candidates, Ed Graff from Anchorage, Alaska, did not possess a superintendent license in his state. Birk said Alaska’s different laws allowed Graff to transition into the superintendent role in Anchorage without receiving his license.
This lack of a superintendent license, according to theMinnesota Board of School Administrators (BOSA), significantly impedes Graff’s ability to receive a variance superintendent license to work as a superintendent in Minnesota while he works toward receiving his Minnesota license. The board of education today told Birk that they couldn’t say whether the variance board would grant Graff a variance, and that they wouldn’t be able to make a decision on the issue until June 13.
Birk said the school district had been in regular communication with BOSA regarding Graff’s licensure, and they had been told that, based on Graff’s experience, they did not anticipate difficulties for him to obtain a variance license if hired by STMA while he completed all requirements for Minnesota licensure, which are known to be stringent. He would likely need additional coursework and would need to meet other requirements unique to Minnesota.
“What is most disappointing is that we started this conversation with the board of licensing back in March, when candidate Graff had submitted his application,” superintendent Jim Behle said. “We had two conversations [with BOSA] since choosing the semifinalists where we were under the impression that the worst scenario was that he’d have a variance for two years. This was very different than any of the conversations we’ve had so far.”
School board members appeared shocked at the news. They called Graff a strong, well-qualified candidate, and he was the only candidate of the three finalists with superintendent experience. But, in light of the new information, all board members besides one felt it would be best to disqualify Graff from further consideration. Carol Steffens said she felt Graff’s superintendent experience was critical at this point for STMA, and wanted to pursue hiring him despite the unknowns the licensure issues present.
However, with the rest of the board finding consensus on moving ahead, the board then turned to discussion over choosing between Dean Jennissen, current high school principal of Dassel-Cokato High School, and Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault, STMA’s current Albertville Primary principal and curriculum and staff development coordinator.
While the board had positive things to say about both candidates, it was clear that the board felt very strongly that Dr. Foucault should be the district’s next superintendent.
“I think she has done exemplary things for this district,” board member Jeff Lindquist said. “Our administrative staff, our certified staff, our district office staff, these people all have a high degree of respect and admiration for Dr. Foucault.”
Top to bottom, her credentials are impressive,” he continued. “Without hesitation, I endorse the selection of Dr. Foucault.”
“She has proven to us as a school board, and school boards prior, of her ability, her integrity and her dedication to the school district,” Gayle Weber said. “She’s a smart, smart woman and what she doesn’t know, I know she can learn, and I think she will learn it quickly.”
Steffens said she also believes Foucault is capable of the job, but wishes she had had the ability to serve as assistant superintendent for a year, or to have a mentorship.
However, that did not stop Steffens from joining the rest of the school board to unanimously vote in favor of hiring Dr. Foucault for the job as STMA’s superintendent, beginning July 1 of this year.