Some urge national search for superintendent
October 13, 2005
Wednesday’s decision to include residents in the selection process for a new superintendent at the Roaring Fork School District did not come without controversy. After parents and other concerned residents packed the school board’s chambers in Glenwood Springs, board members decided to involve residents from Basalt to Glenwood Springs in the selection of a replacement for Fred Wall, who will retire at the end of the school year.The school board will use a selection concept Colorado Association of School Boards consultant Bob Cito designed. The association will facilitate the selection process, which could begin as early as Oct. 26.Participants will be divided into up to 12 focus groups of eight to 12 people each, board President Susan Hakanson said. The groups will discuss the strengths of the school district, what qualities are needed in a superintendent and, in the words of board member Peter Delany, “How do we get there?”Board member Bruce Wampler said last month that the board would prefer to begin interviewing candidates by February or March.Some in the standing-room-only boardroom implored the board to take its superintendent search nationwide and be sure the selection process includes members of all the valley’s cultures. At Cito’s urging, the board has not yet decided to take its search nationwide, said board Director Michael Bair. Mariana Velasquez-Schmahl, president of the Carbondale-based Stepstone Center, asked the board to allow Stepstone to create “an independent, multicultural citizens committee” to have a prominent voice in the selection process. The committee would represent both the Anglo and Latino communities in the valley, she said. The board panned the idea because all the members of its focus groups would be members of the community. “I don’t see a real positive outcome from having a secondary group,” Hakanson said, adding later that such a group wouldn’t be useful. Hakanson asked Velasquez-Schmahl if a Stepstone representative would participate in a focus group, but Velasquez-Schmahl said she’d first have to confer with Stepstone’s board members.Stepstone board member George Stranahan said later that the organization is also trying to make sure there is broad public input in the selection process, which Velasquez-Schmahl said includes making sure all the valley’s cultures “dialogue” about a superintendent candidate. “I think it’s fair to say that we have a concern that when you look in that room that it’s not a multicultural board or administration; CASB is not itself a multicultural organization,” Stranahan said. “Multiculturalism is probably one of the really central issues of the school district, and we’re concerned that that issue is not going to be represented to the extent it should be.”Former board members Trési Houpt and Sumner Schachter urged a national superintendent search because, Houpt said, “If there’s a strong person within the district, it will give that person credibility if they rise to the top.”She said she has no objections to any potential local candidates.Velasquez-Schmahl agreed. “To suggest that we have the candidate already is wrong,” she said. “Why would you not do a national search? It’s not to say anything against Judy [Haptonstall, assistant superintendent] and her capability.” Some in the district consider Haptonstall a possible superintendent candidate.