West De Pere principal named Pulaski superintendent finalist

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Six candidates interviewed for position

Warren Bluhm, wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com

Jason Lau has been declared the "sole finalist" for the job of Pulaski Community School District superintendent. (West De Pere School District photo)

A principal in West De Pere is on track to become the next superintendent of the Pulaski Community School District.

The district announced Thursday that the Pulaski School Board has named Jason Lau the “sole finalist” for the position of district superintendent. Current district administrator Bec Kurzynske plans to leave at the end of the school year to become director of education and government practice for M3 Insurance.

Lau has spent the past nine years as principal of Westwood Elementary School in the West De Pere School District. He first joined the district in 2002 as director of student services. Prior to West De Pere, he served as school psychologist for Kohler Public Schools as well as Clarke Street School of the Milwaukee Public School District. Lau earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from St. Norbert College and a master’s degree in school psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

He received his Doctor of Philosophy in educational leadership and policy analysis from UW-Madison, where he has also been an adjunct lecturer.

The district held a meet-and-greet and public Q&A meeting with Lau at Pulaski High School on Monday afternoon, and at 6 p.m., he and the school board held a closed session for a follow-up interview.

The board expects to complete the process and announce its hire by March.

It took a formal open records request to learn the identities of the other people who received serious consideration before the board picked Lau.

According to the district’s news release, “a number of highly qualified candidates were interviewed by the board” on Feb. 10. “Candidates were also interviewed by two advisory panels comprised of PCSD residents, parents/guardians, staff, faculty and administrators. The board considered all input in making its selection of Dr. Lau as sole finalist.”

No other candidates were named at first, but in response to the Times Herald records request, the district said four of the other interviewees were Kelly Collins, principal at the Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center; David Muñoz, principal of Menomonie High School; Gregory Nyen, Waupaca superintendent of schools; and Roger Rindo, superintendent of the Oconomowoc School District. A sixth candidate withdrew his application after the interview, said Michael Voelker, school board president.

Under Section 19.36(7) of the Wisconsin Open Records Law, the identities of final candidates – defined as “each applicant for a position who is seriously considered for appointment or whose name is certified for appointment and whose name is submitted for final consideration to an authority for appointment” – are considered a public record.

The meaning of that language has been challenged on a number of occasions, most notably in 2004 during a superintendent search in Chippewa Falls. A school district consultant had two four-person teams interview eight candidates for the job, and then the district announced the names of two “finalists.” Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager agreed with the Chippewa Herald newspaper and said the law required all eight people who went through the extensive interview process to be identified.

Voelker said there was no intent to make an end run around the law, which is in effect to ensure transparency in elected officials’ decision making.

“The interpretation of ‘finalist’ is a new one for the board, as we have never dealt with that in the past,” he said.