Dr. Matthew Mann and Dr. Kenneth Christopher Somers completed interviews with the five Lewis-Palmer school board members on April 3.
D-38’s search for a new superintendent was narrowed to two candidates after the third withdrew during March’s bomb cyclone.
According to Randy Zila, Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) special projects consultant, Dr. Josh Middleton of Idaho found a position closer to home in the interim between the re-scheduled interviews.
Board members’ search questions ranged from “How would you develop a relationship with the school board and individual members?” to “What strategies would you use to lead the district in passing a successful mill/bond referendum?” Candidates were also asked how they would relate to strife in the community or to parents wanting special exceptions to district policies for their children.
Some answers touched on how getting a whole picture can be challenging, especially when first starting in the job. Board member Chris Taylor spoke about being mentored and informed by current Superintendent Karen Brofft regarding the ins and outs of a school district’s operations as he experienced a steep learning curve after being elected. Overall life inside school walls and around a district has a lot of moving parts, and board members expressed the desire not to be caught without knowledge, while remaining aware of the extensive variety of issues.
Attending Town of Monument Board of Trustees meetings, meetings with the city manager as well as the mayor, gathering data about transportation and other city and town-wide operations that affect schools were all mentioned by Dr. Mann as possible parts of a superintendent’s job, which would provide information that can help a school board and school district run smoothly.
Three parent members of the superintendent search team, present in the Shawn conference room after Mann’s open interview with the board, compared notes on being a part of the search process.
Sheri Parks is president of the Palmer Lake Elementary PTA and has children in several D-38 schools. Karen Heater and Amy Shertzer are also parents of students in the district. The three expressed surprise to find the room’s viewing area for the public interviews not packed with community members.
Each of the three parents were on a different one of the three interview teams led by a D-38 administrator and consisting of administrators from each school, teachers from each school, two parent representatives, and a community representative.
Parks shared her experience being part of the process led her to conclude it was “well-orchestrated” and “inclusive.” She cited candidates’ multiple meetings on multiple days, with different groups from the community and school district. She felt these provided time to get to know the candidates, for them to get to know the community, and the opportunity for both sides to provide feedback.
She said she and others on the three advisory teams worked in conjunction with CASB’s Zila to formulate lists of questions; and then asked them round robin-style to the candidates during the initial, confidential interviews. They then presented to their group leaders a consensus of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.
During a break, Tiffiney Upchurch told the three the board was being commended on the process of including the community in the search.
“Lewis-Palmer lies between two highly successful school districts that pay considerably more in teacher pay and benefits,” she said. “What specific things would you do to retain highly qualified teachers currently in the district?”
Answers included supporting teachers as people and as professionals, in addition to better salary rates, which can result in effective and long-term careers. Involving educators in decision-making was also mentioned as providing motivation for job satisfaction.
The district’s new superintendent was scheduled to be announced Monday evening, after press time. Visit trilakestribune.com and pick up next week’s Tribune to see more on the board’s final decision.