Both of the finalists announced Friday live and work in southern Wisconsin.

The school board chose Steven McNeal, assistant superintendent in the Beloit School District, and Dennis Pauli, principal at Mendota Elementary School in Madison, after interviewing four of the 36 original applicants.

The district is searching for a replacement for Superintendent Norm Fjelstad, who will retire at the end of the year after 22 years with the district.

Julie Norland, chairwoman of the board’s search committee, said she was impressed by the finalists’ focus on students.

“They both are strong educational leaders and have a strong background in curriculum and really emphasized putting kids first,” she said.

McNeal, 54, of Lake Geneva is in his second year as assistant superintendent of educational programming in Beloit. He was principal at Badger High School, Lake Geneva, and Brodhead High School and assistant principal at McNeel Middle School, Beloit, and Parkview High School, Orfordville.

As an administrator and parent in the area, McNeal has heard good things about the Edgerton district, he said. He wants to return to a small district like Edgerton.

He said he’d make a good superintendent because of his instructional background. Edgerton, unlike some larger districts, doesn’t have a curriculum or instructional director.

“I know right now they’re looking for an instructional leader,” he said.

Pauli, 46, Oregon, also has a background in instruction. Before coming to Madison this year, he was assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Round Lake, Ill., director of curriculum and instruction in Barrington, Ill., and elementary principal in Barrington, Cross Plains, Oak Creek and Waterford.

He was a finalist last year for Whitewater superintendent.

He said his three years in Round Lake prepared him for a superintendent role.

“Hopefully I can take the experiences that I have had … (and) bring in the best from other great districts that I’ve been a part of,” he said.

He’s impressed by the community’s commitment to education, as shown by its approval of the 1999 referendum to update the schools and build the performing arts center and recent efforts to improve the athletic facilities and build a concession stand.

Both men are willing to move to Edgerton, something required by the school board.

They will come in for final interviews Tuesday and Wednesday. Norland also expects the board to conduct site visits.

The board hopes to announce its choice by the end of the month, she said.

“It could be done sooner, but we also want to make sure we’re thoughtful in the process,” she said. does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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