Walters denies GMRTC job offer, both schools respond
The recently formed Greenbush-Middle River/Tri-County (GMRTC) Joint Powers Board extended a job offer to Bill Walters to become both schools’ superintendent following second round interviews on April 27 at the Tri-County School Library. Walters declined the job offer, leaving both schools to explore their future options.
At GMR’s May 16 board meeting, in reaction to this news, the GMR Board approved extending a superintendent contact to its current interim superintendent, Larry Guggisberg, going with what Guggisberg and GMR Board Chair Shane Kilen referred to as plan B.
Guggisberg highlighted how he started with the district three years ago when it was in a “desperate” need of a superintendent. According to Guggisberg, the district called him a couple weeks before July 1, 2019, and he agreed. Then COVID came and the district was “desperate” again, according to Guggisberg, and he remained at GMR.
“It’s been a great experience,” Guggisberg said. “It’s a place I enjoy coming to work.”
He added how he told the board last December that it needed to find someone else for the position and appreciated the board’s effort in doing so.
“I’m 63 and not getting younger and you made that attempt. And I think you made a strong attempt for that and that didn’t pan out,” Guggisberg said. “And I think maybe I shouldn’t have said this, but before we all started, I said I will be your plan B or I’ll be your backup.”
Kilen responded, “We’re desperate again,” a comment garnering laughs, including from Guggisberg.
“I believe you,” Guggisberg said.
At Tri-County’s May 18 board meeting, Gary Lee from the Minnesota School Board Association— an individual aiding this joint powers board with its superintendent search— gave the Tri-County School Board an update. The search, at least on Tri-County’s side, continues.
“I’m reaching out to a number of individuals that may or may not have interest in being the interim superintendent,” Lee said to the board via Zoom.
Lee highlighted how he just reached out to another individual on the day of the May 18 meeting— a retired long-time superintendent from the Northwest Minnesota area. Lee said this individual was going to contact current interim Tri-County Superintendent Ron Ruud about the job, but didn’t know if this individual had done so yet.
As of the meeting, Ruud reported how he had not yet heard from him. Lee reported how he assumed this individual would contact Ruud the next day.
“If he’s not interested, then we’ll just keep on going down the line,” Lee said, “and calling other individuals that have expressed interest to be interim superintendents.”
Lee reported how the Thief River Falls School District had decided that they were going to go with a full-time interim superintendent as well.
“We have a full list of people that we will be contacting and we will find somebody,” Lee said, “so you can finally get rid of Mr. Ruud.”
Ruud replied, “Yes, please,” a comment garnering laughs from the Tri-County School Board.
Ruud continued, “I keep trying to get them to fire me, but they won’t do it.”
Kilen, also on the joint powers board, gave some insight into Walter’s denial of the job and the events thereafter.
The GMRTC Joint Powers Board approved interviewing the following three individuals: Todd Selk (Principal, Valley Middle School, Grand Forks, N.D.), Walters (Superintendent, Alta-Aurelia School District, Alta, Iowa), and Eric Martinez (Superintendent, La Crescent-Hokah Public Schools, La Crescent, Minn.).
All three were present for the first round interviews at the GMR School, but Selk was not present at the second round interviews. At the GMR May 16 board meeting, Kilen reported how one candidate had taken a job at the Fosston School, so the joint board interviewed just Walters and Martinez in the second round.
Kilen mentioned how they were both good candidates, but that the joint board decided to extend the job to Walters. MSBA contacted him about this approval, Kilen reported, and the next day Walters said he didn’t want the position any longer.
“He declined,” Kilen said. “His reasons were he didn’t think he could do the job like he thought he could.”
As review, following the second round interviews, four GMRTC members leaned towards Walters, including all three Tri-County board members (Holly Burkel, Jenalea Duray, and Mark Koland) and one GMR School Board member (Kilen), and two towards Martinez, including two GMR School Board members (Allison Harder and Brandon Kuznia). During the joint board’s second round interview deliberations, the two board members, Harder and Kuznia, expressed a willingness to get behind Walters.
After Walter’s denial, Kilen said they did contact the other candidate, Martinez, to see if he would be interested. Kilen then said Tri-County wasn’t sure about doing this.
“We went back and forth and discussed it, and it came down to if you’re not sure about it, we better not do it,” Kilen said. “It’s more or less what it came to, so then it became the decision that we’re not going to extend him (Martinez) the job.”
To see the complete story, read the May 25 issue of The Tribune or the May 26 issue of the North Star News in print or online.