Jonathan Clark accepted the Pine River-Backus School Board's offer to become the district's next superintendent.

“I spoke to (school board chair) Chris Cunningham last night and everything is all said and done and ready to go,” Clark said Tuesday morning, May 19, by phone. “I accepted the offer and we're ready to get to work.”

The school board deliberated at its regular meeting Monday, May 18, over final negotiations with Clark, principal at Riverside Elementary School in Brainerd.

Cunningham, who has acted as negotiator between the board and Clark, asked board members to consider the official pay range they were willing to offer Clark. He indicated that Clark might turn down the offer if the board stuck to the offer Cunningham was previously instructed to provide as it would be a pay decrease for him.

The board had advertised the position with a wide pay range. Board member Dave Sheley said if board members preferred to only offer pay on the lower end of that scale, at that time $120,000 annually, they should have advertised it as such. Board member Katy Botz said when the board had discussed the pay range, she had been under the assumption the higher end of the pay range would be reserved for applicants with significant experience in a superintendent position. Sheley said they should have made that more clear in their advertisement.

Neither balked at increasing the district's offer to $123,000-$124,000 per year. Botz said she remembered suggesting an offer of $123,000 during a previous meeting anyway. She, Sheley and the rest of the board agreed to increase the offer.

Cunningham said Clark was satisfied with the benefits package, but the district would need to be straightforward with Clark on whether he should expect evaluations with raises for his second and third years. The board agreed to evaluations each April 1.

Clark said by phone earlier Monday that he was planning to accept the district's offer, pending further negotiations and that he was excited for the opportunity to join the district.

“There's still some things that are being worked out that he is bringing to the school board tonight,” Clark said before Monday's meeting. “But my plan is to be working as a superintendent for Pine River-Backus and I'm really excited to have the opportunity.”

Cunningham reached out to Clark immediately after the board meeting to extend the new conditions.

Board members were prepared to start negotiations with their second choice if Clark turned down the offer. If the board's second choice had turned down the district's offer, the district would have consulted with the Minnesota School Board Association on the proper path forward, which could have been offering the position to the district's third finalist, or perhaps accepting an interim superintendent, though Sheley called that a “Band-Aid” and did not prefer that option. Botz pointed out the district has done so before.

Clark said his background has largely been in special education and working with at-risk students.

“My background really is in special education and in elementary and school improvement areas,” Clark said. “So I'm really working on doing some test scores, and working with trauma informed schools. A little bit of my time has been spent with at-risk populations.”

Four-year Superintendent Dave Endicott is resigning effective June 30.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.