As Brainerd School Board members finalize tough decisions this spring on cutting $5.5 million from next year's budget, they'll also be searching for a new superintendent.
On Monday, Brainerd Superintendent Jerry Walseth announced his plans to retire as of July 1. Walseth has served as superintendent for the last nine years. He has spent 38 years in education, having served as a secondary teacher, associate high school principal, adjunct professor, assistant superintendent and superintendent. He was superintendent of the Eaton, Colo., School District before he was hired in Brainerd in 1999, succeeding Bob Gross, who retired after 18 years as Brainerd superintendent.
Jerry Walseth retiring July 1.
In his letter to the board, Walseth said the short-term priorities of the school district will be completed prior to his retirement, which includes balancing the budget and providing recommendations on how to achieve this. In the long term, as a resident of the district, Walseth said he will continue to support the district and its need for additional funding.
He thanked the board, community members, students and staff in the school district.
After the board meeting, Walseth said he had originally planned to retire a year ago but wanted to help guide the district through the operating levy referendum, which was voted down by voters Nov. 6. He planned to retire this summer regardless of the levy vote turnout, he said.
He said he's unsure of what his plans for retirement will be and he's reviewing his options for his "next phase of life." He said he'll definitely spend more time with his four grandsons - two 1-year-olds and two 3-year-olds.
"We all knew this day was coming but it's hard to hear it. And it's with sadness we regretfully accept your letter for retirement," board chair Reed Campbell said. "You always have that compassion and care for our kids in the district. Your leadership and care in the district are second to none."
"It's been an honor to serve with you," board member Bob Nystrom said. "I hope and pray you and Terrie will stay and be part of our community."
"I know, Mr. Walseth, you've been pondering a decision like this for some time and agreed to give our board, our district, our community some time to get through some difficult times," board member Kent Montgomery said. "Even though November didn't turn out the way you had hoped it would, I acknowledge how thankful I am for your willingness to put in those additional years here and take that on yourself instead of leaving it to someone else."
Board member Lew Hudson said it was rewarding for him to be part of the committee that hired Walseth.
"I remember our divisions, our deliberations, I remember them well," Hudson said. "We did not know when we called him immediately if we were doing the right thing. It's gratifying Mr. Walseth has exceeded every expectation we have put on him and I wish him God speed."
"I knew we were doing the right thing," board member Ruth Gmeinder added with a smile.
Board member Ruth Nelson thanked Walseth for staying as long as he did.
The school board did not formally accept Walseth's resignation but referred it to the next school board personnel committee.
The personnel committee will meet in an emergency session at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Washington Educational Services Building to discuss Walseth's resignation and the procedures for a superintendent search.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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