Massey is next superintendent

The Forest Lake Area School Board voted 6-1 the evening of April 20 to name Steve Massey, the current principal of the Forest Lake Area High School, the next superintendent of Forest Lake Area Schools. The naming of Massey to the position is the culmination of a process that began in December 2016, when current superintendent Linda Madsen announced that she’d be retiring in July of this year.

The school board held a second interview of its final three candidates – Massey, Century Junior High Principal John-Paul “JP” Jacobson, and Cambridge-Isanti Schools Director of Teaching and Learning Gregory Winter – on April 19, and during the board’s regular April 20 meeting, members discussed the strongest qualities of each candidate. Though the board cited many positive aspects about Winter, including his past superintendent tenure and his experience with successful bond campaigns, when asked to state their preference, all of the members selected one or both of the in-district candidates. Luke Odegaard preferred Jacobson, Jeff Peterson preferred Jacobson or Massey, and the other members preferred Massey. Positive qualities of Massey included his 14 years of experience in the district and his focus in interviews on helping kids succeed.

“He was very student-focused,” Board Member Rob Rapheal said. “Everything he talked about was (related to) student achievement.”

Jacobson’s top qualities in the board’s eyes were his easy communication skills and willingness to think outside the box, as well as his management of Century in the almost two years since he’s arrived at the district.

“He’s done great things there,” Julie Corcoran said.

Upon further discussion, several school board members focused on Massey’s experience and knowledge.

“I think he presents a very strong skill in budgeting,” Board Member Gail Theisen said, adding that she thought he would be a good advocate at the Minnesota Legislature for the district. “He’s got a good understanding of the (funding) inequities in our district.”

After additional discussion, Peterson said he was leaning toward Massey, and the board voted 6-1 to give Massey the job. Odegaard voted against.

The board also gave Peterson and Rapheal the job of negotiating a contract with Massey, noting that all the members would discuss the general terms of the contract at an upcoming meeting. Before the meeting’s close, Odegaard said that despite his vote against hiring Massey, he was committed to the vision of a school board totally in support of its new superintendent. Multiple members expressed gratitude that their own district could yield two such strong candidates.

“While I won’t be supporting the motion … that doesn’t mean that I won’t be supporting him (Massey) going forward,” Odegaard said. “He’s a strong candidate. I think we’ll be in a good spot when he takes the seat.”