Merrill Area Public Schools will begin the process of looking for a new superintendent after it was announced late last week that Dr. Lisa Snyder had been offered, and accepted, the same position in the Lakeville, Minn. school district.
Snyder, who has been the MAPS superintendent for just under two years, will stay with the district through Aug. 8 if the Board of Education accepts a transition plan she proposed late Tuesday afternoon in a closed session. She would like to start in Lakeville on Aug. 15.
MAPS School Board President Keith Schmelling said that Snyder has done a lot to improve relations between the district and the community in the short time she has been here.
“Lisa has been great and she has served this district well. The thing we have to realize is that while we had her, we were getting more than our money’s worth in what she has done,” Schmelling said Monday following the district’s annual meeting. “All the teachers, staff and people in the community I have talked to have been very impressed with Lisa and things have really turned around in the two years she has been here. I’m certain we’ll find somebody else that can do what she has done and continue moving forward.”
He said that with the school year about to start, the likely option will be to appoint an interim superintendent, which is part of the plan that Snyder was to propose at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Interim is really the only way we can go right now. The question is who? After that we could possibly do a search like we did when we went and found Lisa. We’d have to use a search firm to get that done,” he said. “The thing we don’t want to do is rush into a decision and decide right away. Lisa has really set up a great foundation for us moving forward. And the idea for an interim is to get somebody who can move it forward or at least keep it at the status quo.”
For Snyder, the chance to lead a much larger district – Lakeville is roughly four times the size of MAPS and has two high schools – along with the chance to move closer to her children and parents was why she applied for the position.
“I know it’s the right thing, it feels right. I’m the kind of leader that district needs and Lakeville is close to my grandkids. I’ll miss everyone here, but they will stay the course,” Snyder said.
She was one of three finalists for another position in Minnesota earlier this summer. She had said before that those were the only two positions she had applied for and was not going to seek any other positions this school year if she had not landed the Lakeville job.
According to the Lakeville Patch, Snyder made a strong impression on both the school board there as well as the members of the community who met all day Thursday with Snyder, with one board member calling her as “a breath of fresh air.”
While both Snyder and Bob Laney, the assistant superintendent in St. Louis Park who was the other finalist, both stressed taking a collaborative approach to leading the district and a need to increase Lakeville’s use of technology, it was her “frankness, exuberance and vision of the future that earned her the chance from the district to guide Lakeville’s schools forward,” according to an online story on the Patch’s website.
“I believe Dr. Snyder will bring a fresh approach … she’s a visionary,” said Board member Bob Erickson in the story. “She’s a rising star in the field of education.”
During the public meeting with Snyder, she didn’t hold back on her assessment of the Lakeville district, as well as the problems it has faced recently. Many of the problems mirrored what she stepped into when she assumed leadership of MAPS from Dr. Sally Sarnstrom.
“I have read about some of the issues with wondering if the district has not been transparent enough with the decision making, with the financials, that means there’s been a breakdown in communication,” said Snyder. “This is public education. Public education is supposed to be transparent. To have a community that has stakeholders that feel that somehow there are some things that aren’t being completely shared seems pretty ridiculous to me because our business is an open book and that’s the way we have to operate.”
Lakeville was faced with making harsh budget cuts during the last school year, which caused some disconnect between the district and the citizens. Many of the members of their board thought that Snyder’s experience in Merrill would serve their district well going forward.
“I was very impressed with not only the level, but the depth of her experience,” said Board member Kathy Lewis.
Snyder will replace Gary Amoroso who resigned effective July 1 after 10 years as the Lakeville superintendent. She is the second senior administrator to resign this month as Co-Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Technology Carole Witt Starck accept a similar position in the Kettle Moraine District earlier this month.