School board selects Michael Funk as new superintendent

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Photo by Abby Thibodeau

Community members speak at a school board meeting at the Oak Park building on April 28. The board recently approved a superintendent contract for Dr. Michael Funk, which begins on July 1.

Abby Thibodeau, Layout Editor-in-Chief

In a special meeting on April 8, the school board selected Dr. Michael Funk as the district’s next superintendent. He will replace interim superintendent Malinda Landsfeldt in a more permanent position beginning July 1. 

Prior to his current position as the superintendent of Albert Lea Area Schools, Funk taught social studies and worked as a high school principal. He was named the 2022 Superintendent of the Year by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

“One thing that really stuck out with him was his experience. He’s had four or five contracts reviewed by his current board, and that’s a really hard thing to do because the average tenure of a superintendent is just over three years,” Alison Sherman, School Board Chair, explained.

Additionally, Funk served in the Minnesota National Guard for 30 years, retiring in 2018 at the rank of Colonel. His achievements include the oversight of security for Super Bowl 52, where he managed 600 Minnesota National Guard members as Chief of the Joint Staff.

Funk plans to use his experience to “come in and help make a really, really good district even better,” he said.

To begin the selection process, the school board hired the Minnesota School Boards Association to help narrow down the 18 applicants. Next, the board sent a survey to community stakeholders to gauge what qualities they wanted in a superintendent. Of the 822 respondents, most were hoping for an individual with experience in collaborative leadership, budget and curriculum development.

“It was important to the board that we gave everyone an equal voice in the process, and we didn’t elevate any one voice over another,” Sherman added.

It was important to the board that we gave everyone an equal voice in the process, and we didn’t elevate any one voice over another.”

— Alison Sherman

To gain a better understanding of the district, Funk has been watching board meetings and following committee actions. He also meets with Landsfeldt to prepare for a smooth transition this summer.

Funk’s approach is to “sit and listen. Meet with people and talk, find what are some opportunities for improvement. Really just immerse yourself in the system so you can find out as much as you can,” he explained.

However, the superintendent will not be the only position experiencing a shift. School board elections take place this November, leaving five of the seven seats to be determined. 

Sherman stressed the importance of stability within the community. She hopes that the community and next year’s board members will collaborate with Funk to produce positive results for the district.

Therefore, Funk wants to begin by getting to know the board and addressing their concerns. Additionally, he intends to address issues surrounding transportation and growing diversity within the area. 

“I think if we focus on the basics and not spread ourselves so thin on all the extras, and bring our schools back to academics, we can have a really amazing school and be one of the best out there,” Tina Riehle, school board director and parent, said.

Overall, Funk wants “to run as effectively and efficiently as possible,” and “utilize the resources we have as a school district in the best manner possible to improve opportunities and achievement for all of our students,” he added.