Bittman hired to lead District 728

Managing Editor

Bittman was both top and the unanimous choice of School Board at completion of selection process

by Rachel Minske
Contributing Writer

Sitting in the front row of the audience during a March 13 Elk River Area School Board meeting, Daniel Bittman was officially hired to serve as the district’s next superintendent.

According to Bittman’s three-year employment contract, the Elk River Area School District will pay the incoming superintendent a gross annual salary of $205,000 for the 2017-2018 school year. The salary will increase over the next two years; Bittman will receive $208,075 for the 2018-2019 school year and $211,196 for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Hiring the best superintendent that we can find is a goal that we all share,” School Board Director Gregg Peppin said. “With the hiring of Dr. Bittman, I think we’ve succeeded.”

Other board members also offered welcoming words to Bittman and his family.

“We open our arms to you and your family and we’re very excited,” said School Board Chair Shane Steinbrecher.

Referring to Bittman’s salary, Peppin noted taxpayers were asked to make a “sizable contribution” for their next superintendent.

After a lengthy candidate search, the Elk River Area School Board unanimously voted in February to hire Bittman – who most recently worked as the superintendent for the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District – from a pool of three finalists.

The District 728 superintendent position opened in June 2016 after Mark Bezek left to take a job in Somerset, Wisconsin. Bruce Watkins, a former St. Cloud Public Schools superintendent and district administrator with Duluth Public Schools, has served as interim superintendent since early August.

About the district’s new hire
Bittman’s experience includes a decade of work at Clark County School District – one of the nation’s largest school districts located in Nevada – as a teacher, building administrator and director, where he oversaw 186 elementary schools.

Bittman has said his experience in Clark County has prepared him well for the anticipated growth in the Elk River Area School District. The Clark County School District hires thousands of new teachers and enrolls tens of thousands of new students annually, Bittman has said.

He has also served as the Sauk Rapids-Rice superintendent for the past seven years and was named the 2016 Superintendent of the Year by the The Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

The district serves approximately 40,000 residents and 4,300 children in the northwestern reaches of the St. Cloud metro area while employing nearly 600 staff members.

Prior to serving as superintendent at Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools, Bittman served as assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education and director of elementary and secondary schools in the Centennial School District.

Employment contract details
On July 1 of each contract year, $5,000 will be contributed for the superintendent to an established account in the Minnesota State Retirement System Health Care Savings Plan.

The incoming superintendent will earn 30 days of paid vacation each school year and will be entitled to 11 paid holidays. Bittman will also be credited with 18 days of sick leave for any illness, injury or health condition that prevents him from performing his job duties.

The district will reimburse the superintendent for business use of his personal vehicle while performing job duties, excluding miles driven while commuting to and from work.

Bittman’s contract with the school district will expire June 30, 2020, at which point the School Board can choose to renew it.

Watkins said the district planned to meet with Bittman this week to discuss transition plans.