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Anderson will lead Red Wing schools

Karsten Anderson listens during the public forum Tuesday night. Red Wing resident Juli Cota said she liked that "he's involved in the community."1 / 2
Anderson talks to the Red Wing School Board Tuesday night during his second-round interview. The board chose him for the district's next superintendent.2 / 2

The Red Wing School Board selected Karsten Anderson for the superintendent position Wednesday evening.

Virginia Dahlstrom, current superintendent at Wadena-Deer Creek, was the other candidate.

Anderson is the current superintendent at Watertown-Mayer Public Schools. He has 13 years of experience as a superintendent - 10 of which are at Watertown-Mayer - and is a former school district business manager.

During both of his interviews, Anderson stressed the importance of putting students first.

"Student achievement has to be the top priority and by far the most important priority. Period," he told the School Board during his second-round interview Tuesday night.

Along with other characteristics, that's something that caught the eye of the board members.

"Karsten very clearly put (teacher) effectiveness and what goes on in the classroom first," Board member Mitch Boldt said.

Difficult decision

But that's not to say choosing Anderson was an easy task. The board deliberated for nearly two hours Wednesday night.

Anderson and Dahlstrom were selected as finalists following first-round interviews at the beginning of February. Each candidate then spent a day in the district, meeting with administrators and touring facilities before answering questions during a public forum followed by second-round interviews with the school board.

"You have two very fine, successful candidates," search consultant Ken LaCroix told board members before they began discussions.

Both candidates had many of the characteristics the board was looking for in a superintendent, Board member Mike Christensen said.

"We're trying to find the best fit for the district," he said.

The board discussed Dahlstrom's background working in schools in Egypt and South Korea and turning around school budgets and school cultures.

"(Virginia) brings a wealth of knowledge of different systems," Vice Chairman Dennis Porter said.

They also discussed Anderson's calm demeanor and straightforward answers.

"Karsten's answers were rooted more in the classroom, not in idealism as much as practical classroom application," Boldt said.

"This is a good problem to have," Chairwoman Heidi Jones said of having difficulty deciding between the two candidates.

The board voted three times throughout the night, each vote showing four board members in favor of Anderson and three in favor of Dahlstrom.

For the fourth vote, Porter, who had previously supported Dahlstrom, switched his vote to Anderson, saying he cared about board unity. Other board members did the same, and the board voted unanimously for Anderson.

"Both were wonderful candidates," Board member Emily Baldwin said. "Both had incredible credentials ... and diverse qualifications."

Jones says she feels good about the decision the board made. "I'm just very happy."

Anxious to begin work

Anderson accepted the position over the phone Wednesday night. He said he is excited about beginning work in Red Wing, calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"It's a high-quality school district. Right size, right feel. You don't really get all those possibilities together at the same time," he told the R-E Thursday.

Anderson said he is impressed with the Red Wing's focus on student achievement, and that he doesn't have any specific plans in place to change or add to what the school is doing already.

"That will evolve naturally," he said.

Anderson said he, his wife, Laurie, and their three sons, Per, 9, Hans, 6, and Lars, 4, are anxious to become members of the community.

The School Board will formally approve the decision to select Anderson at the regular board meeting Feb. 22.

Current Supt. Stan Slessor's last day in the district will be June 30.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.