Stakeholders lay out ‘walk on water’ want-list for next head of schools
Panel hopes district finds superintendent who listens, respects local values and much more
For Moffat County’s next superintendent, a small panel of community leaders, school officials and interested residents — most of them parents — expressed a strong preference on Monday for a leader who is visible, takes accountability, listens and supports conservative values.
On Monday, a small workgroup of stakeholders assembled at the Moffat County School District’s central office and said they wanted a superintendent who has integrity, is highly visible in the schools and in the community, and does not frequent local bars or other age-restricted businesses.
Tasked with answering four overarching questions, the 16-person forum, including the moderator, spent a little over an hour talking about what the community and Moffat County schools have going for them, what the next superintendent should know coming into the job and what qualities they should possess to be successful.
Leading the discussion was Norm Ridder of McPherson & Jacobson, the firm hired by the Moffat County Board of Education to conduct the district’s search for a new superintendent. Included among the stakeholders panel were Moffat County Commissioner Tony Bohrer, Craig City Council member Tom Kleinschnitz, a handful of school board members, a teacher, school principal and other interested community members.
Ridder told the room 11 potential candidates have already applied for the position, which was was posted in May after the school board approved a separation agreement with the former superintendent. After posting the job, the search firm released an online survey asking people in the community the same questions the stakeholders were trying to answer Monday.
Early on during the discussion, it was brought up the district has never had a female superintendent before. No one voiced any opposition on Monday to the next hire being a female, but the stakeholders didn’t put too much of an emphasis on gender, as they expressed their want-list for the next head of Moffat County schools.
Rather, the group said they would like someone who builds around the district’s strategic plan, gets out in the community and takes the time to build trust before trying to make any big changes.
They want a superintendent who maintains a good reputation and communicates effectively with school staff, the administration and the general public. They want someone who is up front and honest, doesn’t tiptoe around hard questions and listens intently while speaking thoughtfully. Repeatedly, the stakeholders said they want someone who supports the community’s conservative values.
The stakeholders added that the next superintendent should set high expectations and hold people accountable but do so without alienating them. The stakeholders also said they want someone who will integrate with Moffat County, not someone who comes in and tries to change the landscape.
“Walking on water would help, too,” one of the stakeholders joked before others said the school district would probably have to pay a lot more if it finds someone who meets all of the community’s desires.
Looking to attract a talented schools leader, Moffat County’s greatest asset might be its rural location and plentiful outdoor opportunities, stakeholders said. Other strengths unique to Moffat County could be the county’s close community interactions, how strongly the people here support local schools and the great individuals already working within the district.
Stakeholders said the next superintendent should know school funding will likely be an issue going forward with the looming closures of the coal-fired power plant and mining operations.
The next superintendent should also know the district has been through six superintendents over the last 10 years, will move to a four-day week at the start of the next school year and many of the district’s buildings are falling apart while local voters are reluctant to pass a new mill levy, the stakeholders added.
“A lot of change is coming — that’s the bottom line,” one of the stakeholders warned.
The search firm will share information from Monday’s meeting and the results from the online survey with the candidates. Ridder said the idea is for the candidates to sell themselves to the community at the same time the community is selling itself to the candidates.
After the stakeholders forum, Ridder said there weren’t many surprises from the discussion, but Moffat County did come off as more rural than he originally thought.
“The values are very traditional, very conservative, more so than I expected, but I would say what stood out is that it’s really a more small-town feel than I thought it was,” Ridder said.
Later, he added that Moffat’s biggest strength is its people.
“I think it’s the rural, beautiful community and the people … the core that I’m walking out of here is that the people are really solid, really solid,” Ridder said.
Up next, a set of finalists will be identified before their names are released to the public. The finalists then will be scheduled for interviews with the school board and a committee of stakeholders, which can be as large as 24 people.
The committee will highlight individual strengths and concerns with each candidate but will not make a hiring recommendation, as Ridder emphasized that will be the school board’s decision.
If everything goes as planned, board members hope to make one of the candidates an offer in early July and have a new superintendent in place to start work in August.
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