2 districts bid adieu to leader

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

ADAMS — As the superintendent of Southland Public Schools prepares to move on to a different school district, school board members prepare to begin the search for candidates to fill the position.

After three years of serving as superintendent for the school district in Adams, Gary Kuphal has accepted a position as superintendent for the Planview-Elgin-Millville school district. Kuphal called the move "the next step" for him as a superintendent.

"Professionally, it’s a larger district," said Kuphal.


It’s also closer to home for Kuphal, who lives with his wife in La Crescent.

Southland’s school board scheduled a special meeting this morning to discuss the resignation and the search process to fill the position. Kuphal’s contract with Southland officially ends June 30.

Kuphal also will resign as superintendent of LeRoy-Ostrander, a position he has served in for 20 percent of his time since July 1, 2007.

School board chair Mike Smith said the board was "a little disappointed" but "not really surprised" at the resignation. The biggest worry, according to Smith, is finding someone to fill Kuphal’s shoes.

"I think everyone in these small districts knows that getting administrators with experience gets harder every year," said Smith. "We knew there was a good chance (the resignation) would come. He started out here and was hoping to build on his resume. When we hired him, my hope was that we’d have him for five years, but as a small school district, we realize we are a stepping stone. He’s done such a great job for us, and I wish him the best."

During Kuphal's time as superintendent, Southland has faced financial challenges, including major budget cuts. Declining enrollment has been an ongoing challenge at Southland, as it has been for most rural school districts, which has led to significant program reductions and staff lay-offs.

In the last two years, about $620,000 was cut from the budget to avoid having a negative fund balance.

Although voters in Southland rejected a $450-per-pupil-unit operating levy request in 2006, Kuphal led the district well through a difficult period, said Smith.


In November, a ballot question passed in an overwhelming vote of 703-466, providing the district with $375,000 per year for 10 years. The same day, voters in L-O also passed a referendum.

"He exceeded the expectations of our board," said Smith. "He took us through a really tough time, and he’s got us in a good place right now. We know as a small district, we will continue to face declining enrollment, but if we hire someone now, we have some time before the new administrator will have to face that."

Smith said the board will need to discuss whether to conduct the search for a superintendent themselves or hire a consultant and whether the new superintendent will continue to be shared with L-O.

The position likely will be posted by the end of next week.

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