Oelke mentoring for superintendent

by Tom Coombe
Ely school officials set the stage for a potential transition of the district’s administrative lineup and configuration.
Monday, board members unanimously approved a plan to enter into an a superintendent mentorship agreement with elementary principal Anne Oelke through the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Under the agreement, Oelke will take on some of the duties of a superintendent while being mentored by current part-time superintendent John Klarich. She will be paid an additional $1,000 per month.
Klarich told the board the arrangement gives Oelke, who has a superintendent’s license, a chance to get her feet wet of sorts before the district has its next superintendent vacancy.
“I’m leaving May 31 and this was a discussion, that if you decide to move her into the superintendency, this is an opportunity to get hands-on experience and find out what it’s like to run a school district for 11 months,” said Klarich. “It’s like an experiential thing.”
Board member Rochelle Sjoberg said the move also gives the district a chance to “pre-plan“ instead of filling the next administrative vacancy “by reaction.”
“This was a way for the district, with some of that rotation in that position that we’ve had, could look more long-term,” said Sjoberg.
Since mid-2015, the district has had three part-time superintendents, with Kevin Abrahamson on board until 2019, with Erik Erie following until his resignation in January. Klarich, a long-time Iron Range superintendent, came out of retirement to take the reins here and last month signed a contract extension through May 31, 2023.
Oelke, who has been the elementary principal for about a decade, will report directly to Klarich, who will report at least quarterly to the board about her progress.
Her duties during the mentorship run the gamut, ranging from crisis planning and additional supervisory evaluations to work related to stimulus funding, grant programs and World’s Best Workforce.
Sjoberg said, “This is a way for her to get her hands-on and determine if this is a direction she would want to go with, and the district has the ability to have a process in place.”
Should Oelke take on the superintendency, it may lead to a reshuffling of administrative configuration and reducing the district’s overall administrative expenditures.
“Right now the biggest reason we’ve had three administrators, the big part is the separation of the buildings,” said Sjoberg. “When the buildings are conjoined that is something we would be looking at, and looking at the future we could be looking at a superintendent/K-5 principal and a middle/high school principal.”
“Basically we would go from three to two administrators, which would be a money saving position too,” added board chairman Ray Marsnik.
Oelke is taking on additional work responsibilities and time on the job as a result, including “giving up time in the summer that she would normally have off now,” Klarich told the board.
Klarich joined the district in January, following the resignation of Erik Erie. He came with nearly 50 years of experience in public education, including previous superintendent stints at both Nashwauk-Keewatin and Mt. Iron-Buhl.
Like Erie, Klarich works on a part-time basis. The contract calls for him to work three days a week, including two in Ely and a third remotely.
The superintendent mentorship comes in the midst of administrative reshuffling within the district, with Klarich replacing Erie earlier this year and Jeff Carey coming on board next month as the grades 6-12 principal. He is replacing Megan Anderson, who resigned after six-plus years on the job and opted to return to a teaching position.