School Board poised to consider Cedarburg principal after other finalist withdraws
Cedarburg High School Principal Jeff Nelson emerged as the lone finalist this week in the search for a new Grafton School District superintendent.
The School Board was scheduled to hold a public forum at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, during which two finalists for the position would meet with residents and be interviewed by the board.
However, the list of candidates was halved when the other applicant, Supt. Mark Elworthy of the Wisconsin Heights School District in Mazomanie, withdrew from consideration.
“Dr. Elworthy informed us that he has accepted a position as superintendent of the Whitewater School District,” Interim Supt. Tom Andres said. “That leaves us with Mr. Nelson as the lone candidate.”
Despite Elworthy’s decision, the board planned to continue with Wednesday’s forum, where residents would be given the chance to meet Nelson, ask him questions and provide written feedback to the board.
The board was then scheduled to consider hiring Nelson or reopening the search for candidates, which began with advertising the position in May.
“What this does is leave the board with an up-or-down vote on one person,” Andres said.
Based on a projected timeline announced early this month, the board’s goal is to hire a superintendent by Monday, June 27, when it holds its next regular meeting.
The board began searching for a new superintendent in early May after requesting and accepting the resignation of former Supt. Mel Lightner. Lightner stepped down in the face of criticism for his handling of a failed referendum in the spring election and personnel decisions.
Andres was hired to fill the post until a permanent replacement is found.
After the district received more than 40 applications for the superintendent job, the list was pared to 10 candidates by committees of administrators, staff members and residents. Last week, Nelson and Elworthy were announced as the finalists.
Andres said the board used feedback from a community survey, a public listening session and staff members to develop a profile of skills and attributes for the next superintendent. Candidates were screened based on certification, experience and references and then interviewed by committees of parents, community members, staff and the board.
Besides Elworthy, Andres said, two other applicants withdrew because they accepted other job offers.
“I think what that tells us is that we really got some top-notch candidates,” Andres said.
“We’ve looked at them very carefully and vetted them, and the ones that emerged as finalists were clearly the best.”
Although Andres will not make a recommendation on hiring, he said Nelson remains a strong candidate. Andres said he spent Tuesday morning in Cedarburg “talking with a variety of people” about Nelson and that the district contacted more than 20 people about the candidate.
“This guy is going to be a very positive addition to the district if the board decides on him,” Andres said.
Wednesday’s forum was scheduled to be held in the Grafton High School auditorium. Before the event, Nelson was expected to tour district facilities and meet with building principals and the central office staff, including technology and facilities directors.
In considering Nelson, the board will review forum feedback, followed by a background check and finalizing a contract offer.
The district is also continuing the search for a new athletic director/associate principal at Grafton High School. That position is being vacated by Kevin Deering, who this spring accepted a job as the principal of John Long Middle School in Grafton.
Andres said the district has received nearly 50 applications for the athletic director/associate principal post. Grafton High School Principal Scott Mantei is overseeing the hiring process, which will include a recommendation to the board.
Plans call for the post to be filled by early July.