Robert Nudell
Douglas Froke

Pelican school bd. zeroes in on next school boss

Two candidates, both familiar to many in the Otter Tail-Becker County lakes area, were named finalists for the Pelican Rapids School District superintendent position.

Douglas Froke, superintendent at the Detroit Lakes School District for the past 13 years, and a resident in the lakes area, earned a final interview slot.

Robert Nudell, Superintendent at Norman County East (Twin Valley) and previously an administrator in Frazee and Barnesville, will also Zoom in for a final interview Wednesday afternoon, May 13. Nudell, who has been a seasonal resident in the Lake Lida area, was a finalist the last time Pelican conducted a superintendent search, in 2017.

The quest for a new school chief was unexpected. Following the untimely death of Superintendent Ed Richardson in early April, the board moved into high gear—and either Nudell or Froke are expected to be at the helm by the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.

Six candidates were interviewed over a full day May 11. The “interrogators” included the full school board, and a committee of community and staff. Also participating were administrators Brian Korf and Derrick Nelson.

Interview sessions with Nudell and Froke are slated Wednesday, May 13, at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Froke: Experienced veteran of school administration
With budget-finance issues prominent for the Pelican schools, Froke and Nudell earned high marks for their experience with number-crunching.
But they also rose to the top of the six-prospect field for their apparent connections to staff, students and the broader community.
“He stood out” for his financial background, said Pelican school board member Greg Larson of candidate Froke. In addition, Froke’s experience with ethnic diversity in Detroit Lakes could transfer well to a district with Pelican’s demographics, said Larson.

“Very analytical,” said board member Mike Forsgren of Froke.

“Experienced, a veteran…if there’s a problem, he can solve it,” is how board chair Jon Karger described Froke. Karger also appreciated Froke’s “small town roots.”

Mr. Froke has been a superintendent for the past 24 years. He served eight years in Fulda, three years in Windom and the last 13 years at Detroit Lakes.

Nudell has served at area schools Barnesville, Frazee
Nudell received high marks from board members as well.

Brenda Olson noted that he “interacts well with parents and kids,” based on contacts she has had. “He has been involved in the community…I see him continuing on the path set by (the late Ed Richardson, and principals Korf and Nelson),” said Olson.

A “good, overall view of the budgeting process” was the general view of school board members.

Nudell has plenty of small town background, as a teacher, principal and superintendent.

He has been the superintendent at NCE-Twin Valley since 2016. He has been a school administrator since 1999 serving as a principal at Barnesville, Dassel-Cokato, Buffalo and Frazee High School from 2010-2016.

For nearly 10 years, Nudell served as a classroom teacher in Arizona, and at Lino Lakes, MN.

Ness has guided board through interview process
Retired Fergus Falls Superintendent Jerry Ness has been serving as interim superintendent in Pelican Rapids, and has played a significant role in the interview process.

The six candidates were also interviewed by a panel of staff and community members. These included Trevor Steeves, Tonya Johnson, Lauren Siebels, Jim Christianson, Logan Petznick, Barb Ripley and Becky Wontor.