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Byron ends first round of school superintendent interviews

BYRON — The top five candidates for the Byron superintendent of schools position were interviewed by the school board and an advisory board Thursday and Friday at the high school in Byron.

Advisory board members included parents, representatives from Kalmar and Salem townships and the city, business people, and people from the district office, the technology department, special education department, and community education.

The candidates are:

Jeff Elstadis currently principal at Willow Creek Middle School in Rochester.

Elstad said he likes the "… spirit of continuous improvement," at Byron schools, and one of his mentors — Jerry Williams, former superintendent in Rochester — had the same sentiment.


Elstad stressed attitude in an organization, "Hire attitude, train skill," he said.

He hopes he has established a ‘no fear of failure’ attitude at Willow Creek. He said, "We can learn from failure and difficulties. They’re just another form of feedback."

He said to always remember, "Parents are sending their very best to the school every day."

Jeff Sampsonis principal at Medford High School , in Medford, Minn. He talked about maximizing revenues in budget planning.

Concerning extracurricular and co curricular activities, Sampson said, "Kids involved with activities tend to do better." Outside activities create more well-rounded students, he said.

Sampson is an advocate of all-day every-day kindergarten, something the Byron board is discussing. He said his district gets 42 to 45 students every year from nearby communities such as Faribault and Owatonna and they continue at the school after kindergarten. "It’s a good problem to have," he said.

Sampson said he had also served as the acting superintendent at Medford.

Beth Gieseis currently superintendent of the Cannon Falls area school district .


"It’s not an easy task to walk into a school [Byron] that’s already so successful," she said.

"What is your decision-making style?" the board asked. Biese said she tries to have all the data before she makes a decision. Ideally, "Never make a rash decision," she said. "If you’re fair and consistent, you can’t go wrong."

Giese had just testified before the Legislature about House bill HF 2604 that would expand permissible fund transfers. She said she understands borrowing from school districts, "If they would just stop the unfunded mandates."

Rachel Larsonis the middle school principal in Byron. She took that position in 2010.

"Byron has a reputation I knew I wanted to be a part of," she said.

"We owe it to students to set the bar high," she said. Larson has established more than one avenue to communicate with students, teachers, and support staff so that she can maintain a collaborative culture at the school, she said.

She said it is important to protect students from funding upheavals by monitoring items such as population trends, levy cycles, and fund balances.

Regarding legislative inconsistencies in funding she said, "If you’re keeping up and communicating, you’ll know what’s coming."


Larson said the most important factor in any decision is doing what is right for the student.

Christopher Lennoxis the assistant superintendent of the division of teaching and learning at Stillwater Area Public Schools .

"You guys have an incredible school district," he said to the board members. "I can’t bump into someone who doesn’t have something positive to say."

Lennox talked about activities outside the classroom. He said only a few students can actually be on the basketball team for any school but many want to play. In Stillwater, there are now 26 intramural teams so many more kids can participate.

"I wanted them to have a sense of belonging," he said.

Lennox also spoke about early childhood education.

"To close the achievement gap, it’s best done as early as possible," he said. And, like all the candidates, he was in favor of all-day every-day kindergarten provided there is funding.

Coming up


The Byron School Board will meet Monday at 5 p.m. to discuss which candidates will be invited back for final interviews and district tours. The board's regularly scheduled March meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday at the high school in the district conference room.

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