The RE-1 Valley School Board and two committees comprised of staff, parents and community members spent most of Saturday interviewing candidates for superintendent.
The finalists for the job are Sheldon Rosenkrance and Michael Page.
Rosenkrance was most recently Superintendent of the Estes Park School District. He said he is interested in this position because he comes from a farming community and wants to return to a place where there is an atmosphere of community and support, where students and the community value hard work. .
When asked how he would handle conflict at work and to give an example, he talked about his recent mutual separation agreement with Estes Park. This school board wanted to go in a different direction and while they could have been fighting for their jobs, they decided that leaving was best for students and staff so as not to create a division in the district.
“Sometimes conflict resolution is about agreeing to disagree and moving on,” Rosenkrance said.
Its 100-day entry plan will begin by listening to staff, parents, students and community members to find out what is needed. Rosenkrance’s plan goals include developing and strengthening the relationship between the governance team and the school board superintendent; gain a better understanding of the capacity and organized efforts to ensure that students succeed academically, emotionally and socially, ready for post-secondary pursuits; strengthen family and community engagement and improve communication; promote and ensure a positive, collaborative and constructive climate focused on student results; identify and analyze critical issues in RE-1 that represent both barriers and opportunities for accelerating performance for all students; and analyze, plan and report what has been learned with the board to identify next steps.
Asked about the decline in community confidence in council decisions and the superintendent’s leadership in RE-1 and what his role would be in regaining parental and community confidence in district actions, Rosenkrance pointed out that the trust is something you have to earn. It is earned by trying to understand where people are coming from, what their needs and concerns are; being honest and communicating your opinion and why you do things the way you do; and building relationships, so people know who you are and what you do.
“You also have to follow what you say, if you say something you have to follow it,” Rosenkrance said.
Asked how to reverse the declining enrollment trend in the district, he told the board it was difficult to answer without knowing why students were leaving. But, stressed that it is important to address issues that families may be struggling with and to ensure that teachers and staff feel valued because if they feel good, students will feel good .
Pace is currently the superintendent of the Plateau Valley School District. He was not looking to leave his neighborhood, moreover his contract has just been renewed, but said he was interested in the post of superintendent RE-1 because he and his wife want to be closer to their children and he knows the district, having previously served as the K-12 principal at Caliche School for five years.
“I’ve followed this district over the years,” Pace said. “It’s a great neighborhood; I loved it when I was here. I think it’s still a great school district and should and will be the hub of education in northeast Colorado again.
Speaking about his 100-day entry plan, he emphasized that the first thing any superintendent should do is listen and learn about the things that are going well in the district and the challenges they face. He said it is also important to come up with a plan to address some of the issues raised by stakeholders and this will not be done by him alone, but by committees and groups of people working together.
“Working through some of the trust issues that have come up (addressed), I think is very important,” Pace said.
Asked about his leadership role in regaining the trust of parents and the community in the interactions of the district, he said the first thing to do is to ensure that the district is moving in the same direction, which means that he and the board must be on the same page. He also pointed out that schools miss a bit when they lose sight of “we’re all here for the kids”.
“I think community members need to see a joint effort that’s what we’re doing because that’s best for the kids and just living outside looking in that neighborhood over the past few years, I think that may have been part of the problem,” Pace said.
He mentioned in his previous three superintendent jobs that he came to districts that had “not so good” crops and observed, listened to, and talked to people about their problems. Pace also followed the advice he received from one of his mentors, a former RE-1 superintendent, Martin Foster, to be himself and be open and honest.
On how he would handle conflict at work, he noted that you shouldn’t let it fester or it would get worse and shared a story of two colleagues meeting who didn’t get along, assessing them individually. and allowing them to work IT out. One could, the other couldn’t and was let go.
When asked how to reverse declining enrollment, he replied that you first need to sell your school, run ads wherever possible, and get to where people are talking positively about the district. Pace talked about the competition for students when he was in the Springfield School District making sure the district had a positive relationship with parents and when people were leaving asking why they were leaving.
Following the interviews, the board debriefed with the interview panels who shared some of each candidate’s strengths, as well as any remaining questions they had about the candidate.
The committees appreciated the fact that Rosenkrance values the contribution of teachers; has a willingness to learn from past experience and apply it to the current situation; is student-centred; has a willingness to know the needs and desires of the community by being in a community setting; is an approachable leader; is open and honest; was open about why he left Estes Park; and has a lot of strength and knowledge in budgeting.
They mentioned that Rosenkrance had talked about developing a strategic plan for the district, but the committees wanted more information on how he would go about developing the plan.
For Pace, the committees appreciated that he had a priority attitude for students and staff; he knows the neighborhood; he is ready to impose discipline; he has the will to be regularly in the building; he was humble and kind; his contract with his current district has just been renewed, so he is not expelled; he emphasized teamwork; people work with him and not for him; and he was big on staff communications, trust, transparency and healing.
Committees wanted to know how long he was willing to commit to staying with the district if hired, questioned his understanding of the district’s budget needs based on current district funding, and would have liked to have had some clarification on the situation he mentioned when a staff member was terminated and the process related to it.
The board will discuss superintendent nominees at a regular meeting Monday beginning at 6 p.m. and may take action at that meeting to select the new superintendent.