Peter Hilts picked as D-49 chief education officer

By Debbie Kelley Published: May 9, 2013 | 9:20 pm 0

The Classical Academy's former high school principal and current director of academic services will begin contract negotiations with Falcon School District 49 to become its chief education officer.

The D-49 Board of Education on Thursday unanimously selected Peter Hilts, who now supervises seven principals and other leaders at the charter school, to fill the district's top administration post.

Hilts also works as an educational consultant and is on the faculty in the master's degree education program at the University of Phoenix's southern Colorado campus.

Hilts was one of two finalists chosen from five top candidates for the job, which replaces the traditional superintendent position.

The board now will work with the district's human resources department to draw up a contract and negotiate salary, starting date and other particulars, said district spokeswoman Stephanie Wurtz. As per the district's policy, the contract will be for one year and renewable thereafter.

An Alaska native and former commercial fishing captain, Hilts also worked for Manitou Springs District 14 as director of technology and information services.

'I am honored and eager to get to work for everyone who depends on Falcon School District 49, ' Hilts said. 'The future of public education demands the kind of courage and innovation displayed in District 49. I look forward to joining the team and building on a promising foundation. '

In his application, Hilts said he has a 'complex package of skills and experience ' that fit what D-49 needs - 'someone who can see past the surface of board disagreements and even cynicism as signposts alerting us to seek the support and trust of jaded stakeholders. '

'We need a leader who can tolerate the tensions of progress versus stability and consensus versus conviction. We need a leader who can reanimate the confidence and optimism of the citizens of District 49. I am committed to be that leader, ' Hilts wrote.

Several parents who attended a community question-and-answer session with the finalists last month spoke in favor of Hilts.

Although all five board members approved Hilts, some said they weren't convinced he's the right fit for the district, which has faced massive restructuring and budget cuts in recent years.

President Tammy Harold and Board Treasurer Marie Lavere-Wright said their initial concern - that the timing of the job posting was not right to draw the best pool of candidates - still stands.

'I don't think we pulled from enough breadth to find a candidate that has served in a district that is as diverse and with enough leadership and mentorship to fit our district, ' Lavere-Wright said, 'but I will go with the majority of the board. '

Board Vice President Christopher Wright said the district needs continuity and someone who 'has a passion for innovation, to look where will education be in 20 years, ' and that he supports Hilts in that role.

The chief education officer works with the chief business officer and the chief operations officer to run the district of nearly 16,000 students. The board switched its leadership model in January 2011 in a bid to streamline operations and improve student learning.

The CEO oversees all educational strategies and functions for the district, including schools, curriculum, instruction, assessment and special education.

The first two CEOs took the job as a short-term commitment.

Hilts will replace interim CEO Don Begier, who will start work as the director of information technology education services for Academy School District 20 at the end of this month.

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