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Published June 23 2010

Huffman leaving Fargo for Twin Cities school district

After nearly 18 years as one of Fargo’s top school administrators, Dan Huffman has taken a job in a Twin Cities school district.

The assistant superintendent of business services starts a similar position on July 1 at the Centennial School District in Circle Pines, Minn., a 6,700-student district that serves the north metro.

“I wasn’t really job-searching,” the 56-year-old said Tuesday. “I wasn’t out actively looking for something else to do. But there are some personal and family reasons for this being a good location.”

To the surprise of school board members and officials, the district’s financial guru submitted his resignation letter to Superintendent Rick Buresh on Monday and to the school board on Tuesday.

Huffman, who started in the district in 1992, has been questioned by board members in the past month for financial management decisions regarding overspending on software.

However, he said that didn’t affect his decision, and board members and administrators said they didn’t ask him to resign.

Instead, Tuesday was emotional for Huffman and a couple board members.

“It’s been 18 fast years,” he told the board. “This is a great place for kids. And I really am proud to have been part of it.”

Board member Laura Carley commended him for finance skills that helped Fargo and the state.

“You’ve got a strong personality, and that’s to your advantage – and sometimes it’s not,” she said. “But you know I think the world of you.”

Calling Huffman the best school business manager in the state, board President Dan Fremling added: “This district went from borrowing money ... to not borrowing money, but earning money instead.”

Earlier this month, Buresh said he was told by Huffman that he was considering the decision.

“While he’s been here 18 years, it’s a surprise to lose somebody that’s a big player in your team,” Buresh said.

In his resignation letter dated June 16, Huffman said he had “mixed emotions” about resigning.

“Timing of our decisions is not always the way we would chose, but there are both personal and professional reasons for the decision now,” he wrote. “Other opportunities that fit our personal life are available now and may not be in the future.”

Huffman’s position won’t be immediately filled. Instead, officials will revise the job descriptions and staff will take on his roles until a replacement is hired.

Besides overseeing the district’s finances, he lobbied at the Legislature, led teacher contract negotiating teams and guided the financing and construction of several schools.

“So much of what Dan has currently done is uniquely tailored to his strengths and his background,” Buresh said. “There’s an awful lot of things on his portfolio right now, and that may not be appropriate going forward.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515