The Pine River-Backus School Board selected three finalists to interview this week for the school district’s superintendent vacancy.

The finalists were selected from a pool of six semifinalists interviewed Thursday and Friday, May 7-8, a news release said. The three finalists are:

  • Jonathan Clark, principal of Riverside Elementary School in Brainerd.

  • Michelle Mortensen, superintendent at Renville County West in Renville.

  • Michael Schmidt, principal of Staples-Motley High School.

The school board started interviewing finalists Tuesday, May 12, with staff/community input forums held earlier in the day and feedback provided to the board members before their final deliberations.

In accordance with Minnesota statutes, members of the public were not permitted to attend this meeting due to the current health pandemic. The meeting was recorded for public viewing on the school district website.

The six semifinalists were chosen from a pool of 17 applicants. The other three semifinalists were:

  • Charles Campbell, activities director at Brainerd High School.

  • Peter Haapala, former superintendent of Warroad Public Schools.

  • John Rutten, former head of Schools International Schools Group Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Though the board had originally planned to allow public interaction in the selection process, social distancing measures made that more difficult. The public can view interviews with candidates at

Public comment for school board meetings may be submitted via email to