After more than 35 years of experience in K-12 education, Alexandria Public Schools Superintendent Julie Critz has decided to retire after the end of the school year, effective June 30, 2020.

She formally informed the Alexandria School Board at its Monday, Nov. 18 meeting via a statement that board Chairman Dean Anderson read aloud while Critz’s eyes filled with tears.

In the statement, Critz said that the district is in a good position financially and she feels it is safe for her to leave. She appreciated the years she has been with the district and enjoyed being involved in the leadership of Alexandria Public Schools.

The board approved the retirement, with clerk and treasurer Pam Carlson giving the first motion.

“We regretfully and sadly approved the resignation,” board member Angie Krebs said after the meeting.

Board member Bob Cunniff was surprised that Critz was retiring.

“Nobody expected it,” he said after the meeting. “I think she feels like she’s leaving the district in good shape.”

Critz, who joined the Alexandria school district in 2001 as principal of Washington Elementary School, became director of teaching and learning a half-dozen years later, and was named assistant superintendent of teaching and learning in 2014. This is her fifth year as superintendent, having taken over from Terry Quist in July 2015.

Before coming to Alexandria, Critz was a secondary school administrator at Minnewaska Area High School. She also taught kindergarten, second, third and sixth grades for 15 years in Glenwood and Cosmos.

This past year, Critz held numerous informational sessions on the district's need for a voter-approved operating levy to address budget shortfalls. The referendum passed by an approximately 60-40% margin on Nov. 5.

Seeking a replacement

Cunniff said hiring a superintendent is the most important decision the school board makes, because it’s the one position the board hires. No other district staff is hired by the board.

Planning for hiring a new superintendent has already begun. Dean Anderson knew of Critz’s retirement before the board meeting and was able to conduct preliminary research. He called the Minnesota School Board Association for help, because the organization places about 50% of superintendents, he said.

There is a cost if the school board involved the MSBA in a search, but the search fee would not exceed $6,425. Travel fees would be an additional charge and they are a possibility as well, Anderson said.

The board approved the motion to hire the MSBA for help in finding a new superintendent.

One thing, among many others, that the board will need to discuss is what kind of a candidate it is looking for. Anderson said characteristics to consider are experience, level of academic degree and candidates from in-state or out-of-state. The board scheduled a special work session for these purposes on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

The district might be competing against a handful of other districts of about Alexandria’s size to find a superintendent out of the same pool of candidates. The board got its request for a new superintendent out as soon as it could because of this, Anderson said.

Interviews for the position will probably be in February and March, he said. The final selection will be toward the end of March or during early April. This timeline works well because it gives enough time for the new hire to work out housing if needed, and the fiscal year starts July 1, Anderson said.