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Moorhead schools superintendent battling cancer to retire sooner than expected

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Lynne Kovash, Moorhead superintendent of schools, watches seniors cross the stage as she sits in the front row during commencement ceremonies Sunday, June 4, 2017, at Nemzek Hall. Dave Wallis / The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD — Moorhead School District Superintendent Lynne Kovash is moving her retirement date up from the end of the school year to Nov. 30.

The request was included in the consent agenda for the Monday, Nov. 13, school board meeting. The consent agenda — which includes items generally considered routine business — was approved on a 7-0 vote.

Kovash, who has received chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer since June of this year, said she's decided to spend more time with family.

"I was eligible for retirement a few years ago. Just with the cold weather, having to get out every day, and also just wanting to spend more time with my family" are the reasons, Kovash said Monday.

There is also an acting superintendent in place, "so it just made sense," she said.

Kovash plans to stay busy following her grandchildren as they play hockey, basketball and swim.

"Taking in their activities will probably keep me pretty busy," she said. "I just needed some time, not push myself to work, and take time for my treatments."

Kovash added that her chemotherapy is going well. "I'm not as sick as I was this summer," she said.

In an interview with The Forum a few weeks ago, she said those treatments were meant to prolong her life, rather than provide a cure.

"I just don't think about the ending," Kovash said before the Oct. 23 school board meeting, where her original retirement request was approved. "I am very fortunate ... I've had very little pain, even in the beginning."

Kovash has worked as her health and energy allowed, board President Bill Tomhave and senior administrative staff have said.

In September, Assistant Superintendent Brandon Lunak was named acting superintendent.

Kovash received her first full-time teaching contract with the Moorhead public schools in 1988, though she had worked several years before as a playground supervisor and a long-term substitute teacher.

She worked as a special education teacher, a special education coordinator and other positions before becoming assistant superintendent in 1999. She was named superintendent in 2008.

She had moved to Moorhead in 1968 during her junior year in high school.

On Oct. 18, Kovash was honored at a Moorhead High School football game. The Spuds' captains escorted her onto the field, where she performed the pregame coin toss.

In October, Kovash said she's experienced a tremendous outpouring of support from the community.

"The cards, the letters, the food, the everything ... this community really supports each other. It's just been amazing, kind of overwhelming," she said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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