Laura Stunkel

The Ladysmith School Board voted 7-0, Wednesday, to hire a new school district administrator. The hiring will cause another vacancy the board must now fill.

At its April 15 meeting, the board voted to hire current Ladysmith Elementary Principal Laura Stunkel from three finalists chosen out of 13 applicants.

The school board, Interim School District Administrator Mike Cox and Ladysmith Middle & High School Principal Greg Posewitz conducted a rating process of those who applied. The top three rated candidates based on the ratings were granted interviews last month.

The search was then suspended over pandemic concerns until the board’s April 15 meeting.

The board interviewed Stephanie Hubbard, Christy Larson and Stunkel. The board decided then it did not want to interview additional candidates.

School Board President Todd Novakofski called the school closings and governor’s Safer At Home order from the pandemic made it “exceedingly difficult” to arrange more community interviews with the applicants.

“We were going to interview more and select our finalist pool,” Novakofski said. “We have decided to offer a contract to our top choice from the first three we interviewed, and that would be Laura Stunkel.”

The school board learned last summer it would need to find a new full-time school district administrator starting with the 2020-21 school year, after previous administrator Paul Uhren resigned suddenly to take a principal job elsewhere.

Since then, Interim School District Administrator Mike Cox has been working in an interim capacity for the current school year.

Stunkel has been principal since last July at Ladysmith Elementary School in a school district with 786 students. Prior to that she worked six years as elementary principal in Shell Lake, where she was also in charge of curriculum and district assessment coordinator. Previous to that, she was a teacher at Flambeau School.

Larson is the administrator of the Belmont Community School District, a rural district with an enrollment of 404 students in Belmont serving Lafayette and Grant counties in far southwestern Wisconsin. The elementary school serves approximately 202 students in grades Pre-K-5. The middle school serves approximately 100 students in grades 6-8. And the high school serves 96 students in grades 9-12.

Hubbard has been administrator since 2018 of the Iowa-Grant School District with nearly 900 students in Livingston in Grant and Iowa counties in far southwestern Wisconsin. She was director of special education for the Bemidji School District, Minn., between 2012-18. Prior to that she worked as transition coordinator for the Stevens Point School District, 9th-12th grade moderates/severe special needs teacher for Northwest Indiana Special Education Cooperative in Crown Point, Ind. and teacher for the Homewood School District in Homewood, Ill.

School Board member Chrysa Ostenso believes the board is fortunate amid the pandemic to have an internal candidate. She added board members in searches elsewhere sometimes travel to job applicants’ districts to interview community members.

“If we had not had an internal candidate we really would have been taking a shot in the dark more or less, having to choose someone that we really couldn’t do the proper vetting on which is common practice now. I feel fortunate and we got lucky that we had someone internally we already knew,” Ostenso said.

Stunkel said she is excited about the challenge and opportunity to serve as the superintendent of the school district.

“This is a great district, and I am honored to accept this position,” Stunkel said. “I look forward to working with all of the dedicated staff members and the board of education to serve every student in our schools.  I want students, staff, parents, and community members to be proud to be a Ladysmith Lumberjack and Lumberjill.  We will continue to strive to be an educational leader in rural Wisconsin.” 

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