Haines Borough school board members this week learned via the Internet that one of their four finalists for the superintendent job isn’t quite what they thought.
Members in the past week discovered Iner Joelson of Laurens, Iowa abruptly quit his superintendent job at the Laurens-Marathon school district on March 10, citing differences with the school board there.
Joelson had a “somewhat stormy” history there, including his controversial firing of a principal in 2008, according to the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune.
When he applied for the job here, Joelson apparently already had left the Iowa position, but didn’t make that clear on his resume to Haines. school board members at a Tuesday night workshop expressed doubts about Joelson, but will be paying for his trip to Haines, anyway.
“This shows we should Google all of our candidates before we (choose finalists),” said member Sara Chapell. The fact that Joelson wasn’t “up front” with the district about his job doesn’t bode well, she said. “Not being up front with a potential employer is poor communication and unprofessional.”
Board president Anne Marie Palmieri said Tuesday night she hadn’t attempted to reach Joelson to ask him about his resignation. “He’s getting on a plane in the morning,” she said. His trip will cost the district about $1,100, Palmieri said.
(After the meeting, Palmieri said she had been hoping to speak to Joelson before his trip here, but first wanted to hear an account from school board members there. The school board member she reached was unwilling to share specifics and she ran out of time for speaking to Joelson before his trip here, Palmieri said.)
Member Brian Clay said Tuesday that Joelson had been his top choice to lead the district. “At this point, stopping the train isn’t going to happen… We might as well continue.” Palmieri said Joelson is on administrative leave until the end of the school year, so he’s technically superintendent, though not serving in the position.
Iowa news articles aren’t clear about the circumstances of Joelson’s departure and one article quoted a school board member saying the Iowa district can’t comment on the reasons for Joelson’s resignation, or whether it came at the choice of the superintendent.
Members of the public are invited to meet Joelson and the other three finalists for superintendent during a community reception 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8, at the Haines School library.
Meetings with student council members, media and staff also are set for earlier in the day, with board interviews and a hire as soon as Friday. Other finalists for the job include Holly Cervin, a school principal in Gustavus; Virginia Jewell, a Monroe, Ga., resident and superintendent of American University School of Kuwait, and Ralph Crosslin, who served until 2013 as principal in Nenana. Crosslin now lives in Bellaire, Mich.
Board president Palmieri said she’d check with the district’s attorney about what questions can be asked of candidates. There was uncertainty on the board as to whether superintendent candidates had to be asked identical questions during interviews.