Roseville Area School District 623 names superintendent finalist

Dr. Aldo Sicoli
Dr. Aldo Sicoli

Contract negotiations to follow with Dr. Aldo Sicoli

The Roseville Area School Board has chosen Dr. Aldo Sicoli, the current Robbinsdale School District superintendent, as its top choice for the soon-to-be vacant superintendent seat.

The two other finalists were District 623 staffers -- Roseville Area High School principal Dr. Jenny Loeck and assistant superintendent Peter Olson-Skog.

The three finalists participated in individual, daytime interviews with staff and students on April 27, 28 and 29, and community interviews each night.

Board chair Erin Azer, speaking to a crowded board room during a special meeting Thursday, April 30, called the community's input throughout the entire search process "incredible," saying it had been a "wonderful, tiring" three days of interviews.

"I could not be more proud of our community," she said, adding the board was in a "really tough, great position" because the top three finalists were "exceptional."

In December the school board hired a firm, School Exec Connect, to conduct the search. The company came back with a list of six semi-finalists in mid-April, which was whittled down to the three finalists shortly thereafter.

School board reaches consensus

Within 20 minutes of opening the April 30 meeting, the board members had reached a 5-1 consensus on which candidate they supported.

Many of the board members expressed that they had wrestled with their decision throughout the day, but after a quick anonymous written poll of the board, the majority of the ballots were cast in Sicoli's favor.

Each of the board members had the opportunity to explain their choice.

Lisa Edstrom said upon consulting the new superintendent profile School Exec Connect had put together following a large amount of input from the community, she was able to more easily make a decision.

"Each one of these candidates ... could do this job," she said. "The question was, who would bring the most experience?"

She added that she thought "the world" of the other two finalists and hoped the district would be able to retain them.

Frank Shaw said he "felt energized" during the process by Sicoli, and joked that he felt "slightly scared of him, in a good way" because he found his energy "compelling."

"There is some appetite for change in our community," board member Mark Traynor said. "We better change, too."

Kitty Gogins said she found it "very difficult" to make a decision, but ultimately supported Sicoli in part due to his passion and communication skills, adding she thought he would bring a "valuable perspective" to the district.

Board member Kaying Thao did not specify which candidate she had voted for, but said she voted the way she did based on the community responses she read following the three days of interviews, adding that she was representing what she believed the community was asking for.

The board then voted unanimously to enter into contract negotiations with Sicoli, which was met with a round of applause from the audience.

Negotiations to follow

After the vote, the board called Sicoli on speakerphone to offer him the position, pending contract negotiations.

"That's absolutely amazing," Sicoli said after hearing the news. "I can't hardly believe it. I'm so excited to join the team."

"Welcome home," Azer said, which was once again met with a round of applause.

The school board anticipates making the hire official at its May 12 meeting.

Current superintendent Dr. John Thein, who has served the district in the role for 17 years, will retire July 31. If all goes according to plan, Sicoli will take over Aug. 1.

Dr. Aldo Sicoli

Sicoli has been the Robbinsdale superintendent for six years, and previously was an assistant superintendent, high school and middle school principal, assistant principal, social studies teacher and coach.

He has a bachelor's degree and principal and superintendent licenses from the University of Minnesota.  He also has an MBA from Texas Tech University and a master's degree in teaching from St. Thomas University.

According to School Exec Connect, the Robbinsdale district staff and parents said "they would miss his skills and expertise if he leaves for Roseville."

Hoping to avoid North St. Paul's mistakes

The Roseville district will be working hard to avoid the fate of North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District 622, which had its seven-month search for a new superintendent collapse in late April.

District 622's negotiations with its chosen finalist, Dr. Ryan Laager, stalled over salary and benefits, and then the board members could not come to a consensus regarding his contract.

District 622 superintendent Patty Phillips announced last fall that she was retiring at the end of the school year, and School Exec Connect was hired in October to conduct a candidate search.

The North St. Paul district is now planning to restart the entire search process with the intention of finding Phillip's replacement by the end of May.

Roseville board members Gogins and Edstrom told the Review they didn't anticipate having any problems during contract negotiations with Sicoli.

They said that unlike the North St. Paul district, the Roseville board had reached a strong consensus that was closely aligned with the community's input.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

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