MANITOU SPRINGS • Elizabeth Domangue, a former Harrison School District 2 principal and administrator, is the new superintendent of Manitou Springs School District 14, the five-member board of education unanimously decided Tuesday night.
“She just stood out as far as leadership and instructional qualities and the big picture,” board President Sonya Teigen said after the vote. “She’s a systems thinker.”
Domangue left Harrison D-2 last summer for her current job as an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Northern Colorado.
“I’m a local person who loves public education and believes in the great things already happening here in Manitou Springs, which I’ve followed for many years,” Domangue said at a public meet-and-greet Monday with the three finalists. “It’s a great place to plant my roots and serve for many years.”
The finalists were selected from a pool of 22 applicants, Teigen said. Candidates were narrowed to six, then three, with search assistance from the Colorado Association of School Boards.
“We looked for characteristics that include skills related to our ‘relationships, rigor and opportunity’ mantra,” Teigen said. “We had three really good top candidates.”
The other finalists were Amber Whetstine, executive director of learning services for School District 49 in eastern El Paso County, and Carolyn Gery, who most recently worked as chief officer of strategy and innovation for GOAL Academy, a blended learning charter high school in Pueblo. None has been a superintendent of schools.
Parents, teachers, other staff and community members asked the candidates about their backgrounds and plans for the district at Monday’s informal public event, held outside the high school.
Domangue told a group of parents that if chosen, she would begin by doing “a lot of listening and observing” to determine “the needs and core beliefs” of the district. She then would create collaborative teams to work on moving forward.
Domangue is from Louisiana and moved to Colorado Springs in 2009. She is the former principal of Panorama Middle School in Harrison D-2 and spent four years in the district administration office.
She also was a finalist for the dual superintendent role at Harrison D-2, a decision that ended in April in a stalemate between the four board members, resulting in the co-chief operating officers remaining in place for next school year.
Some parents said they were concerned that Manitou Springs’ school district not lose its identity under new leadership.
The small district of about 1,500 students in two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school became the first in the region to provide students with iPads for school work, has built an award-winning after-school arts program, developed a governor-recognized health initiative and improved academic performance enough to receive the state education department’s highest ranking, Accredited with Distinction, last year.
While she views Manitou Springs as a solid district, Domangue said to parents Monday, “We can always learn how things can be different, enhanced.”
Jessica Moen, a D-14 teacher, said she was glad to see district leaders involved “all different levels of the staff, which legally they didn’t have to do.”
Between interviews with board members Tuesday, the finalists met with teachers and others among the district’s 235 employees. The district also held group sessions with employees and the community before beginning the search.
“They engaged with the Colorado Association of School Boards, which provided a nice, transparent process,” Moen said.
Superintendent Ed Longfield said in March that he would retire in June after 10 years. That gave the board less than eight weeks to find a replacement, Teigen said, adding that given the short time constraint, the process went smoothly.
While Longfield’s official last day is June 30, he is using vacation time for the month of June, Teigen said. In the interim, the board appointed two administrators, Laurie Wood, chief instructional officer and director of Partners for Healthy Choices, and Suzi Thompson, chief financial officer, as interim district leaders until Domangue arrives. She officially starts July 1.
After announcing his retirement, Longfield applied for the city administrator position of Manitou Springs in April but withdrew it a week later, according to city officials.