New principal, superintendent start at Lyle

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lyle Public School welcomed its new principal and superintendent Monday.

Jennifer Backer began her contract as superintendent on a .3 full-time schedule at the start of this month, along with the new full-time building principal Melanie Jiskra.

The two administrators will replace Joe Guanella, who served as interim superintendent and principal from late February 2012 until the end of June this year after the previous superintendent, Jim Dusso, resigned.

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Monday was not the first time the new administrators set foot in the school.

“They’ve both been down here in June a lot,” Guanella said. “We’ve already spent a number of days together.”

So far, Backer said the staff and faculty have been welcoming to her and she’s quickly getting up to speed despite the large learning curve.

“It’s going to be a really easy transition, I think,” she said.

Most of what Backer has been doing in Lyle so far has been meeting staff and getting a feel for the school.

When she’s not working at Lyle, Backer will be acting as superintendent with Mabel Canton Public Schools near Spring Grove, Minn., which she said is similar in size to Lyle and her former district in Cromwell, Minn. Originally from Lanesboro, Backer returned to southeast Minnesota to help out a family member suffering from significant health problems.

Backer has already had a chance to experience the culture of Lyle firsthand, at its Lyle Independence Days Celebration parade.

“It was so fun to be there,” she said.

Jiskra could not be reached for comment. The district will pay her $80,000.

The school board approved Backer’s contract at a March 20 meeting. Backer will be paid $31,000 a year for the equivalent of three days of work for every two weeks.

The board chose Backer following interviews in mid-February, when the board met with Backer along with Michelle Mortensen, the current K-12 superintendent and principal in Ivanhoe, Minn., and Martin Avelsgaard, previously the superintendent at Lake Superior School District and director of Sana’a International School in Yemen.