Area school districts search to fill vacant superintendent positions

(ABC 6 News) – Several school districts in southeastern Minnesota and northern Iowa region are still looking to fill vacant superintendent positions.

For the past year, Rochester Public Schools has been searching for a permanent superintendent. The RPS board offered Interim Superintendent Dr. Kent Pekel a permanent position with the district Tuesday night.

Dr. Pekel accepted the offer, suspending the search for a new superintendent. But RPS is not the only district searching for a new leader.

"There was no ring involved but there was a ‘yes,’ so that’s what we were waiting for," Jean Marvin, chair of the Rochester Public School Board, said.

Marvin said the proposal to suspend the search saves RPS a considerable amount of money and provides the district with a sense of security.

"That’s the other thing that feels good is that we know we have Dr. Pekel," she added.

Especially as so many other school districts in the area are searching for superintendents, including Mason City, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Dover-Eyota.

The current superintendent at Dover-Eyota, Mike Carolan, said he feels like the time is right to retire after seven years in this role.

"I wouldn’t deny that there’s a lot of extra stress these days and I felt it," he said.

Carolan said the search is going well so far to find someone to take his spot.

"I have to applaud anybody who’s looking to be a superintendent during this more volatile, political time. My hats off to them because I think they know what they’re getting into," Carolan said.

He said there are a variety of reasons why superintendents are leaving their positions.

"There’s a lot on your shoulders. One thing you learn pretty quickly is that you’re not going to make everybody happy. Sometimes you make nobody happy. I think these days it’s been tougher and not everybody is up for that kind of challenge I guess," he said.

These challenges were heightened during the pandemic with masking policies and worker shortage. Carolan said in a smaller district like Dover-Eyota, the superintendent has to wear a lot of hats.

"Anybody who wants to be a superintendent, this is a great spot to be," Carolan said.

After nearly a decade, he hopes the next leader will bring as much passion to the job as he has.

"I’ve loved my job here though. So, it’s kind of hard to let that go. They’re going to hire well. They’re going to find a great candidate," he said.

Dover-Eyota will be looking to approve a contract with the new superintendent in early April.

In Iowa, a special session will be held Friday morning with the three superintendent finalists. The Mason City School District will appoint and approve a contract with the new superintendent.