The Woodland Park School District RE-2 Board of Education met with the District Accountability Committee at a Nov. 16 workshop and special meeting to begin the process of hiring an interim superintendent to finish the 2022-23 school year.
Before starting the workshop, DAC members had some business to conduct — electing a chair and secretary.
Four candidates vied for the chair position: Seth Bryant, Mike Demuth, Aaron Helstrom and Jessie Seibert. Bryant won the position. Jaimie Dion won the secretary position by acclamation.
School Board Vice President David Illingworth and Director Cassie Kimbrell, who were appointed by the board as the Superintendent Research Committee, led the discussion. First, they asked the board and committee members about the superintendent job title — whether it should be superintendent or chief executive officer.
Board President David Rusterholtz suggested CEO, but others thought calling the position a CEO might confuse applicants and narrow the applicant pool.
Next the group discussed qualifications. DAC member Tom Torrance asked why Illingworth and Kimbrell removed licensing as one of the qualifications.
Illingworth said licensing isn’t required by state statute.
“We have two co-superintendents, one has a license and the other doesn’t, but they are both qualified,” Kimbrell said.
“Plenty of people can do incredible things without licensing,” Illingworth added. “We want a proven track record.”
Ashley Lawson asked why the board is seeking an interim superintendent rather than a permanent one.
“We’re a little ahead of the hiring season,” Illingworth answered. “If, come Dec. 21, we don’t like the candidates or we don’t get enough candidates, then we can move into a search for a permanent superintendent. …We have plenty of big things to do, we shouldn’t have to wait until July to get started.”
A few of the DAC members said some teachers are afraid that the board wants to hire an interim superintendent who will “clean house,” but Illingworth and Kimbrell assured them that wasn’t going to happen.
The board also removed the requirement for applicants to write an essay. “The resumes should speak for themselves,” Illingworth said. “The in-person answers are more important.”
Woodland Park Education Association President Nate Owens gave suggestions for qualifications that included searching for someone with excellent communication skills and a proven success record, with knowledge about student education and the ability to motivate the workforce. Board members agreed to add Owen’s suggestions to the qualifications list.
Finally, the group moved on to the hiring timeline. The board didn’t send out requests for applications Nov. 10, as was previously reported. Instead, the job was to be posted on Nov. 17. The application period ends on Nov. 29.
If all goes according to plan, semifinalists will be chosen and interviewed over Google Meet, and finalists will be named Dec. 7. In-person public interviews, involving both the board and DAC, will take place during the state-required two-week posting period and a new interim superintendent will be named on Dec. 21.
With the adjournment of the workshop, the special meeting began as the board ratified the items discussed.
Rusterholtz said he had an issue with the word “interim.” “I don’t want to hire a placeholder until we get the right person,” he said. “I just want to find the right person.”
“I remain committed to hiring an interim superintendent,” Illingworth said. “There are different types of ‘interim.’ There are the types who stay on mission and keep the district functioning. There are the ‘hatchet people’ — they’re the bad cop who leaves so we can bring in the good cop. We’re not looking for an interim superintendent who comes in, creates chaos and then hits the road. We want someone to come in and prove themselves to the end of the school year — someone who will be No. 1 with a bullet when it’s time to hire a permanent superintendent.”
He added that hiring an interim superintendent and seeing how he or she works out is better than rolling the dice for a permanent superintendent with a multi-year contract.
“We’re hiring for a term that ends June 30 with an option to continue,” Illingworth said. He made it clear that the board can’t simply extend the interim superintendent’s contract. He or she would have to reapply and compete for the job.
Rusterholtz asked that there be two town hall meetings planned — one before naming the finalists and one before naming the new superintendent. Town hall meetings shouldn’t compete with other events, he added.
The board, minus absent Treasurer Chris Austin, voted unanimously to approve the job title, qualifications and timeline.
Additional meetings and the town halls will be posted on the district website, wpsdk12.org, as necessary.