Altoona water tower

The Altoona school board will choose from six or seven candidates of the 26 who applied for the district’s top job.

Board members are scheduled to meet tonight in closed session to discuss those candidates, chosen from the initial list of applicants by Edina, Minn.-based School Exec Connect. The application deadline was Jan. 8.

Bob Ostlund, a partner with School Exec Connect who is involved with the Altoona superintendent search process, said the list of those who applied for the job is impressive.

“We feel very good about the slate we are going to recommend to the board,” Ostlund said. “There are some fine candidates who applied for this job.”

Board members likely will narrow the list of applicants to three finalists on Tuesday, he said. Those finalists will each spend one day in the district, from Jan. 28-30, during which time they will be interviewed by district staff and community members.

Public forums at which residents can ask questions of candidates also will be part of that process, Ostlund said.

The board could choose its finalist on Jan. 30, he said, and could begin contract negotiations with that person.

“(Board members) know an awful lot about each candidate by that point,” Ostlund said.

The board hopes to finalize those negotiations and hire a new superintendent in early February, he said.

The superintendent search is the second in less than a year for Altoona school board members. On May 7 board members hired Ron Walsh as interim superintendent.

He began that job on July 1 and was hired to work one year, meaning the next superintendent the board hires will begin July 1.

Walsh, one of two finalists for that job, was a longtime superintendent in the Elk Mound school district and then worked as interim superintendent in Plum City schools. The board hired him to help heal divisions in the district left in the wake of former Superintendent Connie Biedron’s often-tumultuous six-year tenure.

Board members named district finance director Michael Markgren acting superintendent in December 2017, when the board relieved Biedron of her duties. She resigned in February after revelations about her management style creating an abrasive, fearful environment in the district that prompted teacher departures.

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