Minnesota State Academies complete hire of new superintendent

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The details have been sorted and the parameters agreed upon for Terrence Wilding to take over as the new superintendent for the Minnesota State Academies this summer.

Wilding, the current New Mexico School for the Deaf principal, will take over leadership of both the academies for the deaf (MSAD) and blind (MSAB) in Faribault from interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Stepaniak. The MSA School Board began a search for a new leader after former Superintendent Brad Harper resigned in December.

The New Mexico principal has over 25 years of experience in deaf education and is deaf himself. He was a highly supported pick from the MSAD community, who rallied in early May, calling for a new superintendent familiar with deaf culture.

It was MSA Board Chair and blind representative Jan Bailey who provided the greatest opposition to Wilding in the conclusion of the selection process, choosing to abstain from the vote to approve his hiring, which ended 6-0. She said he was a strong candidate, but she felt fellow deaf candidate Bradley Porche displayed a stronger interest and understanding of the blind school’s needs.

Ultimately, though, Bailey was part of a unanimous vote Thursday to approve the final hiring of Wilding, and she released a positive statement on the hire to all MSA staff Friday.

“Mr. Wilding was selected for the position based on his experience in educational administration, career and life experience directly with individuals with disabilities, as well as strong communication and people skills,” she said. “He is dedicated to whole-child development and is experienced in the development of high-quality academic and residential programming to support student achievement and ensure high expectations and results.”

Wilding currently holds a superintendent license from the state of Arizona. His offer to take over at MSA is contingent on obtaining a Minnesota license. He said at his interview onMay 16 that the Minnesota Department of Education indicated he would likely be able to earn the license within the next couple of years.

In the meantime, he will serve as superintendent on a variance, likely to be granted by the Minnesota Board of School Administrators at its June 13 meeting. Wilding’s salary is set at $115,000 plus an additional $12,500 this year for relocation expenses.

“It wasn’t my position to lobby one way or another,” said Stepaniak on the hiring of his replacement. “I know the board looked hard, and they made the decision they felt was appropriate. I think he was a good hire, and hopefully he will fit in rather quickly.”

Stepaniak, who took over in December after former Superintendent Harper stepped down, said he’s learned quite a lot in his short time as the academies’ leader. The former Faribault Public Schools superintendent noted some big challenges to come for Wilding, as he takes over.

“Mr. Wilding comes in with experience as principal of a deaf school. He has not worked in a blind school. One of his priorities will need to be to establish a working and trusting relationship with the school for the blind,” Stepaniak said. “The other thing is to understand how the schools operate, the culture of each and how he can provide the right leadership for them.”

Wilding is currently finishing up in his role as principal for the New Mexico school and has not yet indicated when he will step in at MSA. He is expected to take office before July 1.


Minnesota State Academies complete hire of new superintendent

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