Superintendent candidate Petrone eager to continue journey in education

On the 'Net

Joseph Petrone will be the third of three Moffat County School District superintendents interviewed by the School Board this week.

Christine Villard, School District assistant superintendent, was profiled in Tuesday's Daily Press. Read the story here.

Dennis Wilson, former superintendent for Uinta County School District No. 1, based in Evanston, Wyo., was profiled in today's edition. Read the story here.

Superintendent search

The Moffat County School Board plans to host public interviews for its three finalists for superintendent this week.

All interviews are expected to be in the district administrative building at 775 Yampa Ave.

The School Board interviewed Christine Villard, Moffat County School District assistant superintendent, at 6:30 p.m. today.

Candidate Dennis Wilson's interview is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and the third candidate, Dr. Joseph Petrone, of Pinedale, Wyo., will be interviewed at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Something compels Joseph Petrone to learn.

For that purpose, he spent 11 and a half years living in Jakarta, Indonesia, helping run an American international school after he had an epiphany in Rock Springs, Wyo.

"When I was standing in front of a group of parents and community members and we were talking about global citizenship, it hit me that I clearly didn't have as deep an understanding of what that meant," Petrone said. "Well, the best way to get that was to live in another country."

That was 1995.

After four years as assistant superintendent of Sweetwater County School District No. 1, Petrone and his family packed and left for the other side of the world.

What he learned there surprised and intrigued him.

Petrone said being a global citizen - that is, being a member of the global community - is natural to all people. Education is more similar than dissimilar in all parts of the world.

"What it did is confirm that education is very similar around the world, the only difference may be the accent," Petrone said.

While he was overseas, people in rural American communities learned the same thing.

"As I was working over there in a developing country, things were changing in our country," Petrone said. "In small communities, you see parents want their children to succeed and be competitive on a global scale because they see we are a global community."

Petrone, now 56, was first drawn to Moffat County School District's open superintendent position because of its apparent commitment to that level of student success.

One of three finalists for the position, Petrone will be interviewed by the Moffat County School Board at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the administrative building at 775 Yampa Ave.

Whomever the School Board chooses will succeed Superintendent Pete Bergmann when he retires later this year.

Petrone said he hopes it's him.

From his research - he said he is fond of research - he can see the district's interests in student and staff development mirrors his own.

Teachers work within professional learning communities, which let them mentor one another and work in groups to solve problems and get better at reaching students.

The Response to Intervention program keeps track of student progress through the year so teachers and administrators know whether they are succeeding.

"Applying (to Moffat County), it was something I just needed to do," Petrone said. "It sort of matches up with what I've been doing overseas in my career. What you do there, I think, is remarkable, and I want to be a part of it."

Before applying, Petrone spent 25 years in education.

He began professionally around 1980 as director of special education with Washakie County Schools in Worland and Ten Sleep, Wyo.

With his master's degree in special education from Illinois State University, he helped establish a special education curriculum for a five-county Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Petrone also served as a classroom teacher there, but he couldn't resist a pull into administration.

"I realized, after one year, my interest would be working with a school district," he said. "My interest kept percolating in administration."

From Washakie County, Petrone moved to Pindale, Wyo., and worked as a middle school principal.

Four years later, he was back in school to earn his doctorate in education administration from Iowa State University. He completed his coursework in 1990, while serving as curriculum director for Baxter Community Schools in Baxter, Iowa, in his last year.

He moved back to the Rocky Mountains shortly thereafter and worked as human resource director for Adams County School District 50 out of Westminster.

It was there Petrone had the epiphany that took him to Jakarta.

The moment that started him on that roughly decade-long international journey was not unlike the moment that led him into education in general.

As a college student at Illinois State University in the mid-1970s, Petrone was struck with a similar moment of clarity while watching a movie in one of his undergraduate classes.

"In Australia and New Zealand, it's common for students to take a gap year," Petrone said. "I didn't know anything about a gap year, but I did know I was sitting in my college class, learning about the West Coast forests, and I had never really been there."

So, he took a year off from school, went to California and got a job with a children's camp in the northern part of the state near Redwood National Forest.

"I was working with children, and I loved it," Petrone said. "My sister was working in education, and I kind of followed her into the profession. It sort of led me to working with students, and now working with teachers who work with students on a daily basis."

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