School board creates short timeline to hire next superintendent

Eli Pace
From top to bottom, the facades of Ridgeview Elementary, Craig Middle School, Sunset Elementary, Sandrock Elementary and Moffat County High School are shown. The Moffat County School District is in the process of hiring a new superintendent.
Cuyler Meade and Billy Schuerman/Craig Press archive

The Moffat County Board of Education aims to have a new superintendent hired shortly after the Fourth of July.

On Monday, school board members set a timeline for the hiring process following their approval of a separation agreement removing Scott Pankow from the post earlier this month.

To steer the school district’s search for a new leader, the board has hired McPherson & Jacobson, which has more than 30 years of experience working with school boards and boasts being one of the leading superintendent search firms in the U.S.

On Monday, Norm Ridder of McPherson & Jacobson and Christy Sinner, superintendent for the Hayden School District and a consultant for the search firm, walked the school board through the schedule. The consultants also helped the board members identify some of the job criteria and desired characteristics for the next superintendent, along with where to advertise the job posting.

Responding to a board member’s question if the rural school district would struggle to get good applicants so close to the end of the school year, Ridder said he didn’t think that would be a problem. Rather, he told the board he’d bet Moffat County schools will see about 15 applicants.

“And then out of the 15, you may have three or four that are really good,” Ridder said. “Now, I hate to say this, your neighbor is opening up as well. They will get quite a few (applicants). What I’ll do is I’m going to push and twist because this is a beautiful area.”

Ridder was referencing Steamboat Springs, which also needs to hire a superintendent with the retirement of Brad Meeks, who earned a salary of $208,000 in 2021. The firm is also working with Steamboat Springs, and the consultants are expected to meet with the Steamboat school board May 23.

Based on Monday’s discussions, Moffat County school board members believe Steamboat will likely post its open position with a salary at $200,000 or more. At the same time, Moffat is looking at a salary ranging from $140,000 to $160,000, plus benefits.

However, Moffat County board members also noted that the cost of living and housing is considerably lower in Moffat County, so it’s unclear how the side-by-side searches might affect each other at this point.

Regardless, Ridder emphasized that the superintendent’s salary would be negotiable, and the school board could go higher or lower depending on the candidate and the board’s willingness to adjust the range.

According to the timeline, the superintendent’s position in Moffat County was to be posted Tuesday, and a survey for stakeholders will go out to the community May 24. The survey will remain open until May 31.

After that, there will be a stakeholders meeting June 6. The deadline to apply for the job will be June 13, and the board is expected to name finalists on June 23 with interviews slated for July 7 and 8. All applicants will remain confidential until the board releases the names of the finalists.

After interviewing the finalists and allowing the community an opportunity to meet them, the board intends to come to a hiring decision on July 8.

“It won’t take you guys long to make a decision,” Ridder told the board. “It would be right after your interviews.”

Based on the anticipated timeline, the board hopes a new superintendent will be ready to start work on Aug. 1.

After the board hires a superintendent, the search firm will help the superintendent and school board craft goals for the upcoming school year based on what the board wants to see, Ridder said.

During Monday’s meeting, school board members told the consultants they would like to hire someone who can write and speak with clarity, who’s a strong leader, decisive, effective at managing a lot of personalities and has a backbone.

Other important qualities the individual should possess include integrity, trustworthiness, transparency and being well organized. The next superintendent should have a strong work ethic, show heart and passion, and be involved in the community and the school, board members said.

Other than that, the school board would like someone who is innovative, can build a strong climate and school culture, takes responsibility and is a problem-solver with a reputable background. Candidates should also be certified and possess the necessary credentials or have an ability to obtain them.

Ridder said Moffat County’s interim superintendent, Joel Sheridan, will likely need to continue working for the district until Aug. 1, and Sheridan signaled he didn’t think it would be a problem to work something out given the anticipated timeline.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.