ISD 622 hires firm to locate superintendent candidates; Patty Phillips to retire

Patty Phillips
Patty Phillips

Superintendent Patty Phillips has announced she will be retiring from her position as the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district's top administrator at the end of the school year after 10 years at the helm.

Prior to being hired as the district's superintendent, Phillips worked as a teacher in Duluth and Virginia, Minnesota, as well as a principal and later as superintendent for Virginia Public Schools.

Phillips, who described herself as being "at a good retirement age," said she had spoken with the school board previously about retiring, but has assured them that this time she will indeed retire.

"It's time. I've been here for a decade and have been working for a straight 29 years."

The tenured superintendent said leaving her position would be bittersweet. She said she is looking forward to having more time to pursue interests and spending time with family and friends, but will miss the job she loves.

"I absolutely love this district. It has a great staff that's very committed [to District 622]," she said. "It's still fun to get up and go to work every day. ... I didn't think I would be emotional about it, but I am," she admitted.

Phillips said she was looking forward to spending more time pursuing some of her many interests - children, dogs, cooking, gardening, writing and photography. She is also excited to become a grandmother for a second time.

She said she has not really thought about the possibility of a second career, but has not ruled anything out.

District hires search firm

North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School Board chair Amy Coborn said a top priority in the coming months will be to find the best candidate possible to replace the talented Phillips. To assist in that effort, the school board approved a contract with the national search firm School Exec Connect at its Tuesday, Oct. 28 meeting.

Coborn said the school board formed a superintendent search subcommittee at a board retreat in early October consisting of Coborn and fellow board members Theresa Auge and Becky Neve. The district's human resources director Keith Gray presented the subcommittee with nine search firm options, which all submitted proposals as to what they would offer and at what price.

Coborn said the subcommittee whittled that number down to two firms and interviewed executives from those companies in mid-October before choosing School Exec Connect.

"They have done the most business in Minnesota over the past two years, which was a huge plus. You want somebody who knows what's going on in the state," Coborn said.

Coborn said the company knows District 622 "very well." A couple of School Exec Connect staff members have worked in the district, including former interim superintendent Bob Ostlund, who is a senior associate at the firm.

School Exec Connect's fee of $19, 500 was also the lower of the two finalists.

At the meeting Gray said that fee is less than what the district had paid to a search firm 10 years ago when it was searching for a new superintendent and hired Phillips. He said the fees that search firms charge are now a bit lower due to increased competition in the industry. 

School Exec Connect, Coborn said, is putting together focus groups made up of community leaders, licensed teachers and other faculty members, students and parents to find out what the community wants in a superintendent.

The firm will then compile a report and present it to the board.

Coborn said there would soon be an online survey for the public to weigh in on the types of skills and other qualities they believe the next superintendent should possess. That survey will be available in seven different languages and will be posted on the district's website.

It will also be distributed through an email blast to people living in the district. Coborn said the district would then hold an open forum with the top five or six candidates. The school board's seven members will make the final hiring decision. Coborn said while there is no hiring deadline, the board hopes to hire District 622's next superintendent by March. Board members got an early jump on the candidate search thanks to advance notice from Phillips.

Coburn said she has heard a few other longterm superintendents in metro school districts have recently announced their retirements, and the board wants to attract the best-qualified candidates before competition becomes more intense.

Phillips will take no part in the superintendent hiring process, but said she has faith the board will find the best person available for the job.

"We have a really big job ahead of us trying to find a person to replace her. It's a huge responsibility," Coborn said.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7822.


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