Board drops head of schoolsAfter some personal and legal troubles the past year, Superintendent Phil Minkkinen won’t be leading the Lake Superior School District after June 29.
By: Tom Olsen, Lake County News Chronicle
After some personal and legal troubles the past year, Superintendent Phil Minkkinen won’t be leading the Lake Superior School District after June 29.
The Lake Superior School Board has ended its contract with Minkkinen on a 5-2 vote to not renew his contract at its meeting Monday night at Two Harbors High School.
“It was time to go another way,” board member Dwight Moe said after the meeting. “There were too many things that were not proper.”
As the superintendent’s seat will be vacant July 1, the board plans to immediately begin a search for an interim superintendent.
Board members remained tight-lipped about the reasons for ending Minkkinen’s contract, citing data privacy laws. But Minkkinen became a controversial figure in the wake of issues arising last year from a divorce.
“It was not an easy thing to do,” board member Cyndi Ryder said. “There’s a million other things I would have rather done than take that vote.”
Minkkinen was sentenced in St. Louis County Court last August with a petty misdemeanor for damage to property after being seen on surveillance camera breaking the taillight on his ex-wife’s car at her Duluth workplace.
In November, he was sentenced to two years of probation in Lake County after violating a protection order against his ex-wife.
The superintendent contacted his then-estranged wife by text message regarding some personal property and was later arrested in the Two Harbors Super One parking lot.
The school board still has more to resolve with Minkkinen. At issue is his salary for the past school year, which officially ends on June 30.
Minkkinen’s three-year contract, approved in 2009, called for $126,600 in salary for the first year and $134,000 for the second. Due to funding uncertainties, the salary for the 2011-12 year was not written in.
Minkkinen contended during Monday’s meeting that the board agreed to a 2-percent increase last August, but members said no formal contract was signed.
“Until the contract is signed, it doesn’t exist,” board member Leo Babeu said. “We didn’t settle on any figure.”
Minkkinen accused the board of engaging in unfair labor practice and rescinding on a contract.
“We agreed to money and the contract was done,” he said. “We negotiated a contract in good faith last fall and this is insulting. It’s a stab in the back.”
The board adjourned without approving a salary for the final year of Minkkinen’s contract.
Moe said he plans to contact the Minnesota Superintendent’s Association and explore options for negotiating the final year salary. The issue will likely be addressed at next month’s regular board meeting or during a special meeting.
Minkkinen left without offering more comment.
He has been the Lake Superior School District superintendent since 2006. He previously held superintendent jobs in Chatfield, Willow River and Floodwood.