Moffat County superintendent candidates share thoughts at meet-and-greet
Board of Education's decision is expected during Thursday's meeting
May 9, 2016
Craig — The four Moffat County School District superintendent finalists gathered for a meet-and-greet session Monday evening in the Administration Building, sharing thoughts in brief presentations and extensive conversations.
The event, populated by about 30 people, fell a day before candidate interviews and three days before a school board meeting in which a decision is expected.
The new superintendent is scheduled to begin work on July 1. Meanwhile, the district has hired Morris Ververs to serve as an independent contractor after releasing Brent Curtice from the remainder of his contract. Curtice resigned from the district after accepting the superintendent's post at Garfield School District No. Re. 2.
Candidates share backgrounds
• Timothy Bronk, superintendent of Laurel Public Schools, in Montana, told the group that he worked as a mechanic for five or six years in Dillon, Mont., after high school.
"I decided I was not cut out for that," he continued. "I was going back to college and getting into — something. Like most college kids I had no idea."
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He said he tried teaching and "loved it," instructing automotive, welding and various shop classes.
"I quickly found out I had leadership skills," he said. "I (also) had administration that encouraged me to pursue more of that, and I did."
Born in Wisconsin and raised on a dairy farm, Bronk taught in that state for a time, but he's spent much of his career in Montana. He's earned his master's degree in educational leadership, and he's held superintendent positions in several districts.
"I'm interested in … my next challenge," he said.
• J.T. Stroder, superintendent of Gardiner School District, in Montana, said he was born and raised in Texas, on a cattle ranch, and decided to receive training in the oil business in the 1980s. He later shifted direction.
"Got a chance in the mid '90s to work with a group of at-risk young men, and I absolutely fell in love with that process and immediately went back to get my degree in education," he said.
Stroder said he worked, for his first four years of teaching, "strictly with at-risk youth," and he described them as "some of the toughest kids you could ever imagine." He added: "That is what I did, and I loved it."
Later, Stroder became a superintendent in Idaho, and later still, in Texas. After that, he said, he moved to a school district in Wyoming to be close to family.
Stroder noted familiarity with Northwest Colorado, and he said he has family members who live close by.
• Dave Ulrich, deputy director of secondary education at North Kansas City Schools, in Missouri, said he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a teacher.
"I kind of fought it," he added, "because I'd heard all kinds of things about teaching, mostly from both of my parents, who were teachers, and who were kind of telling me to do something different."
But he said he kept coming back to it.
Ulrich said he met his wife in Arizona, while he was going to school.
"That's where I fell in love with the West, and fell in love with the woods," he said. "Some folks have asked me, even since I've been here, 'Why are you interested in Moffat County, in Craig?' I say, 'Because it's the best of both worlds. It's the West, it is the mountains, and it also reminds me a great deal … of that feeling I got doing harvest out in western Kansas."
Before his current position, Ulrich served for six years as a high school principal, and he's also served as an assistant principal and as a teacher.
• Tom Meyer, superintendent of Bellevue Community School District, in Iowa, said he's worked as a social studies teacher and a coach.
"After that time, my wife and I went to the University of Wyoming for three years," he said. "I was a hall director out there and got my school counseling degree."
He said he grew up on a farm with cattle and crops in Iowa — a state where he's worked for a number of years, including 12 years in Bellevue Community School District. He's served as superintendent for two of those years.
"We've accomplished a lot of great things there," he said. "I felt it was time for a new challenge in many ways, to do something different."
He said he and his wife have talked about moving west for some time.
School board meeting set for Thursday
The candidates underwent a round of interviews on Tuesday, talking with community groups and the school board. Mark DeVoti, assistant executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said on Monday that the community group interviews were designed to gather feedback for the school board.
"They come to consensus on one piece of paper," DeVoti said of the community groups, "and at the end of the day they give that to the board — one for each candidate."
CASB has been contracted by the district to facilitate the superintendent search.
Board of Education President Darrell Camilletti said the board is scheduled to meet for a work session from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Administration Building. He said "priority one" for the work session will be to discuss the superintendent candidates, but he noted that some time may be available to discuss the budget, as well.
A celebration for district retirees is slated for 6 p.m. on Thursday, and at 6:30 p.m. the board meeting will begin. Camilletti said he expected a decision on the superintendent question during that meeting.
School board, administrators hold round-table discussion
Monday’s meet-and-greet was preceded by a round-table discussion among school board members and administrators.
"The admin team and the school board are right at the pinnacle of school district operations," said Ververs, opening up the session. "If you have less than productive relationship, that's going to filter down."
Ververs also shared thoughts from Michael Fullan, a professor who's written extensively about educational change. He noted Fullan's exhortation to see problems as "friends" rather than as impediments.
"When diversity is present, when we have to deal with differences in personalities and in thoughts, we tend to grow," Ververs added. "And sometimes that's pretty painful."
Ververs then asked the board members and administrators present — about 25 people in all, sitting together around a table — to share feelings, thoughts and hopes.
They proceeded to do that — at times with great emotion, and sometimes reaching hard for the most fundamental of common ground.
"I do believe," said Lonnie Douglass, the district's director of transportation, "that everybody in this room cares about everybody's babies."