Carlson revamps Dist. 11 superintendent’s cabinet

A series of changes has led to a complete overhaul of the Anoka-Hennepin superintendent’s cabinet for 2014-2015.

Dennis Carlson
Dennis Carlson

Superintendent Dennis Carlson initiated the changes to encourage “seamless transitions,” both for students as they move through grade levels and for incoming Superintendent David Law, who starts work in July.

New chief academic officer position

A fourth associate superintendent-level position has been added in the district with the restructuring of the curriculum, instruction and assessment department.

Starting in July, Cynthia Hays will lead the department and sit on the superintendent’s cabinet as chief academic officer, overseeing student achievement; research, evaluation and testing; state and federal programs; integration; and Q-Comp.

Hays was hired this month after working in the Lakeville Area School District as educational equity and excellence coordinator and, before that, as chief academic officer for Boston Public Schools. She holds a doctorate in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota. Hays will work for an annual salary of $139,000.

Currently, the curriculum, instruction and assessment department has an elementary director and secondary director, neither of whom sit on the superintendent’s cabinet.

Those positions will be eliminated, and Laurie Resch, elementary director, and Ellen Delaney, secondary director, will have the opportunity to work as administrators on special assignment.

In the same department, the district looks to fill a new director of student achievement position shortly. Whoever fills the position will supervise teaching and learning specialists and report to the chief academic officer.

David Law
David Law

Changes in the curriculum, instruction and assessment department will lessen the load for Mary Wolverton, Jinger Gustafson and Jeff McGonigal – associate superintendents for elementary, middle and high schools, respectively.

At present, associate superintendents oversee curriculum, instruction and assessment for their own grade levels, working with Resch and Delaney.

For the school board “to have five voices at the table, it’s hard to look at what’s the single vision,” said Carlson, who has been pushing to hire a chief academic officer since the beginning of his tenure as superintendent five years ago, he said.

School Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann is on board. “We can’t get into a situation where we have elementary doing one thing, and it doesn’t align with what secondary is doing,” he said. “There’s just too many gaps that we’re finding as we try to transition kids through the [preschool through age 21 educational] experience.”

Backup for general counsel

Another new face will join the cabinet next year: Nicole Tuescher, the district’s new executive director of human resources.

Created in part to provide a backup for Paul Cady as legal counsel, the executive director of human resources position is new.

With one executive director of human resources, employee services and labor relations and benefits departments can work more closely together, Carlson said.

Director of Employee Services Sarah Kriewall and Director of Labor Relations and Benefits Brandon Nelson will no longer sit on the superintendent’s cabinet. Kriewall will retain her position, but Nelson has accepted a job with St. Francis School District 15. How his position will be filled has not yet been determined, Carlson said.

Tuescher’s legal background – she has her doctorate of jurisprudence from Hamline University School of Law and has worked as a school law attorney – is critical.

Currently, “when Paul [Cady] is out, we have no internal backup. It’s not a good situation,” Carlson said.

Tuescher will leave her position as manager of human resources for Edina Public Schools to work in District 11 for an annual salary of $120,000, starting May 5.

Putting succession plans together

Steve Kerr, director of community education, will play a bigger role on cabinet next year, stepping up as executive director of community and governmental relations.

Director of Communications and Public Relations Mary Olson will no longer sit on cabinet, as Kerr now represents communications and public relations, community education and governmental relations there.

Carlson has entrusted Kerr to develop succession plans for leaders in those three areas, as he anticipates a number of people will leave in the next two to four years.

Carlson paves the way for Law

Law will begin work as superintendent with 10 primary advisers: General Counsel Cady; the three associate superintendents, Wolverton, Gustafson and McGonigal; Chief Academic Officer Hays; Chief Financial Officer Michelle Vargas; Chief Technology and Information Officer Joel VerDuin; Chief Operations Officer Chuck Holden; Executive Director of Community and Governmental Relations Kerr; and Executive Director of Human Resources Tuescher.

“We’re trying to leave the district [with] the best, highest functioning structure we possibly can,” Carlson said of preparations he is making before his retirement at the end of June.

School board members thanked Carlson for his work reorganizing the cabinet at a work session April 14.

“I really appreciate you setting the table as you ride off into the sunset,” Board Member Bill Harvey said.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]