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Op Ed: Clear Choice for District Administrator

This article contains opinions and/or editorial content

This past Tuesday (Feb 25th), the final three candidates for the School District of Lodi’s District Administrator went through a 3-hour interview process that included one hour with the School Board, one hour with the parent’s committee, and one hour answering questions from the public. One candidate stood out head and shoulders above the rest–and it wasn’t because of his height.

3 Qualified Candidates

All three candidates–Vincent Breunig of Lodi High School, Nicholas Karls of Baraboo School District, and Keith Nerby of Sun Prairie School District–were highly educated, experienced, and qualified.  Each brought to the table a set of skills which would be of value to the district.  That, however, is where the similarities ended.

More Than Qualifications

While all three have excellent qualifications, only one brought passion to the table:  Dr. Nicholas Karls.

It was obvious that Mr. Bruenig isn’t pursuing the position because he has a drive to attain it.  He admitted as much:  “If you’d asked me four years ago, I’d have said I don’t want to be District Administrator”.  His stated reason for applying was to make sure that the school district has good leadership.  If no other stand-out candidates had risen to the top, Breunig would make a good DA, providing continuity and familiarity.

Mr. Nerby simply did not inspire confidence.  He’s a calm, affable, gentleman… who doesn’t have the charisma and gravitas we need.  His repeated anecdotes about not being able to control his own children certainly didn’t inspire any confidence.

Nicholas Karls, however, walked into the room and took control of it.  It was his room, his turn to speak, and he stepped into the role with confidence, clarity, and charisma.  A Lodi native who, as he says “bleeds blue”, Karls wants to “come home” to Lodi.  The School Board should invite him with open arms.

Where the other candidates spoke mostly about “what they had done”, Karls spoke about “what he will do”.  While he spoke of what he has done, and how he operates, he then explained how he will bring those experiences and practices to Lodi and use them to support and strengthen this district.

The Experience We Need

Karls was the only candidate to speak about his experience and skills with budgets.  Those skills include not only managing the funding allocated by the school board and local taxes, but in knowing how to reach out for state and federal grant monies to supplement the budget.  The district needs someone with that degree of clear-cut experience dealing with the practicalities of administering the district as well as the more subjective aspects.

Karls also showed that he knows how to handle the obstacles inherent in the job.  He was in an administrative position when the “Nazi Salute” scandal hit Baraboo High School.  He was open and honest about the issues while maintaining discretion.

Active Engagement

I was one of a handful of residents who attended all three Q&A sessions1Each session had attendance of around 25, but only half a dozen or so were present for all three sessions., and I presented the same question to all three candidates:

What do you think is the responsibility of the school district with regards to transparency and its relationship with the press?

Mr. Breunig took a passive approach; he’d be willing to answer any questions he’s asked2Within the legal and moral constraints of the position..  Mr. Nerby verbally wandered off without actually answering the question.  Dr. Karls expressed an desire for an active and affirmative approach.

There’s a level of transparency that’s incredibly important for us as a school system, that we need to hold ourselves to.  And I view the press as an avenue for that transparency.  I feel there is tremendous opportunity to view the press as one more communication tool to highlight many of the great things that are going on–and to highlight some of the struggles, too, and how we’re working through those.

We send out the newsletters.  We send out the e-mail blasts through Infinite Campus.  But, for the majority of our stakeholders, they may never get access to that information. So consuming that information through the Lodi Chronicle and the Lodi Enterprise is extremely important.

This open, active approach to communication is something that Lodi needs.

This is the District Administrator that Lodi deserves.

Failing Towards Success

My failure, not Dr. Karls’.

Since the School District has chosen not to record these sessions, I’ve taken it upon myself to do so when I can.  These Q&A sessions were my first “real life” test with the new equipment I purchased.

One thing about tests:  You often fail.  But that teaches you how to do things better next time.  This test showed three critical failures.

  1. The batteries don’t actually last 60-90 minutes.  I’ve solved this with the addition of an external power pack.
  2. One hour of HD video requires more than 1.5GB of space–a lot more.  I’ve purchased two 32GB SD cards.
  3. The small microphone I had tested failed.  I’ve been able to get the boom mic that came with the camera working properly3In initial testing, the audio was horribly out of sync with the video.  It seems to be working fine now.

Having learned from my mistakes, I’ll be at Reach Out Lodi on Wednesday to record the Town of Lodi Board candidates in their public forum.  The video of that forum will be posted on Redleaf Consulting’s YouTube channel for those who can’t attend.

 

 

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Each session had attendance of around 25, but only half a dozen or so were present for all three sessions.
2 Within the legal and moral constraints of the position.
3 In initial testing, the audio was horribly out of sync with the video.  It seems to be working fine now.

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