District 112 Board Chair Jeff Ross didn’t mince words. The past year has been a challenging one for Eastern Carver County Schools, he said.
With Clint Christopher stepping down from the District 112 superintendent position, moving home to Iowa, the school board selected someone Ross called a “dynamic, strong leader” to lead the way in coming years.
The Eastern Carver County School Board unanimously agreed to enter into negotiations with Lisa Sayles-Adams for the position of superintendent effective July 1. Sayles-Adams is currently assistant superintendent at North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale Public Schools.
Her selection concludes a rigorous process that began in March and ended with eight strong candidates interviewed May 5-6, and then narrowed down to three finalists.
Candidates participated in day-long interviews on May 11, 13, and 14 that included staff, student, and community “virtual” meetings as well as in-person interviews with the School Board. The other finalists for the position were Dr. Ryan Laager, superintendent of Belle Plaine Public Schools; and Dr. Jeff Ridlehoover, assistant superintendent at Mounds View Public Schools.
“We knew we needed a dynamic, strong leader, not just to raise the already high quality of education for our students, but to help bring together our community. In Lisa we have found a truly outstanding leader with the skills and background to deliver the excellence we all expect,” Ross said.
“She showed tonight she’s ready to hit the ground running, has the complete skill set we were seeking, and we are excited for what her leadership will accomplish for our students, staff, and community,” Ross said.
Q&A WITH SAYLES-ADAMS
The newspaper asked Sayles-Adams a few questions about the job.
What was it like, getting the call, hearing that you were selected?
A: I am so excited. I feel very honored and very blessed. It feels amazing. This is something I have waited for a long time. To get that call, it’s very hard to put into words, but I think the biggest thing is thankful.
What made the District 112 position attractive to you?
A: First of all, I think a lot of things the candidates talked about. Of course the academics, top-notch in the state. The high graduation rate. We have a tremendous amount of students that go on to a four-year or two-year institution immediately after high school. That’s something to be really extremely proud of.
But also being a regional leader in personalized learning, being able to be innovative, being ahead of the curve is super exciting. I also look at growing enrollment. When I had the opportunity to truly understand how quickly the area is growing, that is very exciting.
Watching a lot of the board meetings, to see the passion and commitment from all the stakeholders who came up to ask a question — whether they be a student, a parent, a community member — there was great points of pride.
All of the students, staff, talking about all the great work being done in the district. That was very intriguing to me. The more I dug, the more excited I became.
What resonated from the board, from the community, in your interviews?
A: Steady and strong leadership. Someone who is visible, out in the community, out in the buildings. Someone who is continuing to do their best with personalizing learning.
Taking it on to the next level. That is something that came up again and again with the stakeholders.
What from your previous job experience do you feel will help you lead District 112 in an
A: I think having 24 years of experience in public education is going to serve me well. Having an understanding of what it looks like at the elementary, middle and high school level, plus alternative high school, not to forget about that.
The biggest piece is keeping the students at the center. Starting off as a teacher and that is something I will hold steadfast to. When you keep the students at the center, that helps you make the right decision.
A recent study from USA Today found that 76% of K-12 educators are women, yet only 24% of superintendents are women. Why do you feel it is that way?
A: There have been a lot of articles written on that. The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) has a strategic plan about to increase female leadership at the superintendence level.
They have identified that is an issue and that is something they are trying to work on with focus groups, having leadership development opportunities so women who aspire to be superintendents are able to get that mentoring, that coaching, and that support.
Locally, we’re starting to see more women get those superintendent positions, but we’re working to get caught up.
What from your experience over the last eight years in an assistant superintendent role will help you in your next role as superintendent?
A: I think being able to have that high level, district view, is important. Having the scope of the district. How each and every piece makes the district work.
If you look at the building principal, they’re the ones that lead the charge in the buildings that support the teachers. Teachers are the important ones that plan the lessons and they provide that engaging learning environment and those strong relationships. Para-professionals, non-certified staff, they are also right in the classroom providing those relationships and much needed instructional support.
Really it comes down to knowing we need each and every staff member. It takes everyone working together to have quality schools. Also, being able to work at the instructional level.
Whether I was a principal, whether I was an assistant superintendent, working tightly with teachers, we’re all lead instruction leaders. You want to make sure you’re keeping posted on current best practices. You want to make sure you’re setting a tone in your school community.
This summer will continue to be an unique time, is there a message you want to send to your future district about the road ahead?
A: The message to keep in mind, and it is simple, growing strong together. When people work together, work collaboratively, we’re able to get more things done.
I’m super excited. I can’t wait to start. We want to grow strong together and work stronger together for each and every child in the district.