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New superintendent selected
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MONROE - Richard Waski, former Monroe High School principal, will become the district's new superintendent starting next school year, the school board decided Monday on a 7-2 vote.

No discussion preceded the roll-call vote in which board members Les Bieneman and Jim Plourde rejected the contract with Waski. Dan Bartholf, Amy Bazley, Mary Berger, Michael Boehme, Rich Deprez, Bob Erb and Brian Keith all voted to approve the contract; Erb participated in the meeting over speakerphone.

Waski has already accepted the position with a salary of $145,000, Keith said. Current District Administrator Cory Hirsbrunner made $136,825 in 2015-16, according to data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Until Monday's meeting, the board hadn't publicly discussed the candidates for superintendent, instead relegating the topic to closed sessions.

Asked why he voted no, Bieneman said, "I just did not feel it was in the best interest of the educational system in Monroe."

Other board members declined to comment on why they voted to approve Waski's contract, though Keith referred to a letter from Erb that Keith said explains "why we believe Rick is by far the best candidate, and that's why I voted yes."

In a news release from the district, which administrator Joe Monroe said "mirrors" the letter, Erb lists the qualities that make Waski the right choice for superintendent, including his experience and ability to reflect on his performance and learn from his past.

Erb didn't respond to phone calls seeking comment before deadline Monday night.

Waski served as MHS principal from 2010 to 2013, according to the news release. He's currently the district administrator of the Adams-Friendship Area School District north of Wisconsin Dells. He also has been an associate principal, activities director, high school science teacher and coach.

The other finalist under consideration was Amy Van Deuren, principal at West Allis Central High School near Milwaukee.

Hirsbrunner submitted her letter of resignation in August, detailing her plan to leave when her contract expires on June 30. She has been with the district for more than 20 years and was promoted to superintendent in 2012.

The district hired a search firm, School Exec Connect, to help with the three-month process to replace Hirsbrunner. They conducted several focus groups in Monroe and a community survey, the release said.

A pool of 32 applicants was whittled down to six candidates who interviewed with the school board. The board chose four finalists, but only Waski and Van Deuren opted to continue with the final interviews.

The two finalists spent March 1 in Monroe, interviewing with an advisory committee - including community members, staff and administrators - and with the school board, the release said. They also toured the schools and participated in a writing exercise.

"It was very - it was very well vetted," said Berger, the board's vice president. "We spent a long time getting information from everyone who was in the interviewing process, and I just really appreciate everyone's input and their involvement in that process, so thank you for that, because it was time consuming but ... a good process."