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West Fargo School Board to name superintendent finalists on Tuesday

On Tuesday, West Fargo school officials will name finalists in the district's search for a new superintendent.

Tuesday also concludes the final of the four interviews with candidates Hutchinson, Kan., Superintendent David Flowers; Northern Cass Superintendent Allen Burgad; Perham-Dent (Minn.) Superintendent Tamara Uselman; and West Fargo Assistant Superintendent Louise Dardis.

On Sunday, board members interviewed Burgad and Uselman - both of whom come from smaller school districts but asserted they're ready to lead

the fastest-growing school district in the state.

"I love North Dakota," Burgad said. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

As the superintendent of the district near Hunter, N.D., for the past six years, Burgad said he's attracted to West Fargo for its small-town values and progressive community.

He vowed he'd be active in the district and civic organizations as well as "be in the trenches" with district staff to build trust.

"You don't want to move too fast," he said. "You have to have a deep understanding of the district."

The 43-year-old stressed his research-driven, goal-setting leadership.

When asked how he'd transition from the 540-student district to West Fargo's nearly 7,000-student district, he said he was confident in taking on the challenge.

"I have the skill set and knowledge to do it," he said. "This is a step up. That's where the challenge comes in."

Likewise, Uselman, who has led the 1,440-student Minnesota district for seven years, said she isn't looking for "a cake walk."

"If you want someone who has integrity ... who is unafraid of conflict but at the same time ­doesn't use that in a demeaning way, those skill sets are transferrable completely," she said.

She vowed to spend time in each school, build trust and keep an open-door policy with staff.

When asked about her experience with making educationally sound decisions even if unpopular, Uselman cited closing Dent's elementary school.

The 48-year-old said she listened to the community and "gracefully" made the transition.

In 2006, Uselman was interested in West Fargo's last opening but wanted to gain more experience.

When Superintendent Dana Diesel Wallace announced her resignation last December, Uselman's husband told his wife, "Your position has reopened."

"Professionally, this is the right fit," she said, adding they also have three grown children in the area. "You're a school district that's growing, and the issues that you have, I believe, are issues that I can bring something to the table that excite me to be part of."

School board members commended her for "doing her homework."

"Your candor and your level of excitement quite frankly are refreshing," board member Duane Hanson said.

The board will name an undetermined number of finalists on Tuesday.

Then, starting Thursday, the first finalist will begin the process of finalists' interviews with students, staff, administrators and community members.