Olson will make $137,700 in first year of deal, and $143,700 in third and final year
The Crookston School Board stepped up to the plate financially on Wednesday and got their guy.
Jeremy Olson on Wednesday agreed with a handshake with Crookston School Board Chair Frank Fee on the terms of a three-year contract to become the Crookston School District's new superintendent after Chris Bates retires at the conclusion of the current school year.
The district had advertised the position to be in the $136,000 per year range, and will pay a bit more than that. Olson's first-year salary will be $137,700, followed by a second year salary of $140,700, and $143,700 in the third year.
Trying to match Olson's fully covered health insurance package at his current places of employment was more of a "stickler," Fee noted, but the package put together by the board and some creative possibilities that Olson could utilize to lessen his family's health care contribution was agreeable to him.
"Honestly, I have to say this is a bit more than I thought we'd have to pay," Fee said during the negotiations session in the school district office conference room. "But with your experience, it seemed like it was only fair to show you that we want you as our superintendent."
"Obviously, my goal was I didn't want to go lateral or go backwards," Olson said. "I think this meets what I was looking for."
Board member Tim Dufault, who, along with Fee and board member Kari Miller negotiated with Olson on Tuesday and into Wednesday, said that everyone hopes to buy low when they're looking to acquire something, and hiring a superintendent, even one that comes as highly regarded as Olson, was no different. "But the reality was obviously not that, so we had to adjust quickly," Dufault said.
Fee noted that the Crookston district routinely compares itself on a variety of things with similarly sized districts in the region, and said Olson's contract in Crookston is on par with other superintendents in comparable districts.
Olson made a point to mention that he still has one year remaining on each of his contracts in the central Minnesota school districts of Underwood and Henning, of which he is superintendent of both, in Underwood since 2010 and Henning since 2014. He legally cannot sign a contract in Crookston until he's released by the school boards in those districts from the final year of his contracts there. Olson added that he's confident he will be released from those contracts, but it's a required, procedural step that must be taken before he can officially sign his contract here. His plan was to speak with the school board chairs in those two districts Wednesday evening.
Olson also noted, half-jokingly, that his wife would let him know on the drive home tonight if he could accept the Crookston job. While Olson was agreeing to the contract terms detailed by Fee, Olson's wife and four daughters - all fifth grade or younger and two of them twins - sat in a nearby office, with the girls provided lollipops while they waited.
"They're overwhelmed," Olson said of his family, specifically his daughters. When they learned Monday that the Crookston board had identified him as the sole finalist from six who interviewed, offered him the position and was ready to commence with contract talks, Olson said one of his daughters ran into her room and started packing boxes, and another hopped on the computer and started Googling things about Crookston. A third daughter who may have been less enthusiastic about the potential move was "sold" during a community tour earlier Wednesday, Olson said, when they drove through the University of Minnesota Crookston campus and she was told there are horses on campus. "That was it for her," he said. "She's a big horse girl. She was ready to move now."
The board had planned on officially approving Olson's signed contract when they next meet on Feb. 12, but it's possible Olson's boards in Underwood and Henning will not have met by that time. So Fee said the board here will schedule a special meeting as soon as it can after Feb. 12, if need be.
Olson said he plans to take some vacation time in the spring so he can come to Crookston to start holding some meetings with staff in order to get to know people. He said he'd also like to start working here a couple weeks early, in mid to late June, in order to spend some time with Bates for a couple weeks before he retires.