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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 moves forward with superintendent search

Falcon School District 49 Board of Education met April 14 to discuss choosing a superintendent before school breaks for the summer. If they stay on schedule, the board will formally announce their selection in June.The position was posted April 15 on the district Web site and through local media, the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives. During board meetings discussing the position requirements, board members expressed a desire to find someone with experience and knowledge of the region and familiarity with the D 49 area.The position remains open until May 7, at which time the board will begin choosing finalists, conducting interviews, site visits and holding community meetings.”I want buy in from the community so we all have ownership in his (the superintendent) success or failure,” said Dave Martin, board of education vice president.The board discussed effective means for gathering community input on finalists for the position and decided to hold two community meetings – one on the east side of the district and one on the west.In an e-mail, district spokeswoman, Amanda Mountain, said the community meeting will be formatted as a panel discussion, moderated by a neutral third party. “The entire public will be invited,” she said.The board is considering using a similar structure for receiving community input as was used in the recent hiring of a new principal at Meridian Ranch Elementary School.Liz Eikanger, Meridian Ranch Elementary Parent Teacher Association president, said she was involved in the process. “I would like to see a similar process with the superintendent selection but be allowed to ask a variety of questions,” she said.Eikanger said it was difficult to make a recommendation because the questions they were allowed to ask focused on curriculum and relationships with parents and community. “We didn’t get to see the whole picture.”While constructing the search timeline, the D 49 board was concerned whether enough time was allotted to conduct background checks. “We need to make sure there’s enough time to do the extensive background checks,” said Dave Stark, board treasurer.The schedule, as voted on, specifies that preliminary background checks will begin May 7 when the position is closed. Extensive checks will begin May 14 when finalists for the position are announced.The board maintains that sexual misconduct contributed to their decision to terminate former superintendent Grant Schmidt’s contract. Schmidt denies the allegations. District parents have alleged the problems could have been avoided if proper background checks were done.There was no public comment at the board meeting, which was sparsely attended. Some casual exchanges occurred between board members and the audience. Anna Bartha, board president, took the opportunity during a break in the formal discussion to address her involvement in the revolving door of D 49 superintendents in the past six years.”There is a perception and the reality that we have cycled through many superintendents,” Bartha said. During her four years on the board, she said she witnessed the departure of Steve Hull, the appointment of Dr. Nancy Wright, an interim superintendent; and the hiring and firing process of Grant Schmidt.”I just wanted to clarify that I’ve only chosen one permanent superintendent. He was appointed on a 4-1 vote,” Bartha said. She was the dissenting vote.Parent Tom Harold said the process is too rushed. “We’ve had no luck in the past choosing a superintendent. If anything calls for a more methodical process, this does,” Harold said. “We cannot afford another failure.”He is frustrated that the board tries to distance itself from past failures. “I don’t understand the purpose of setting the record straight – (Bartha’s) attempt to absolve herself of shortcomings and problems and not owning up to her mistakes,” Harold said. “For someone who stresses the importance of character education, she is not leading by example.”Board secretary Kent Clawson said he is confident the board will find a good candidate within the short time frame. “If we can’t find a qualified person, we will back off,” he said.Clawson said the board is facing pressure from district administrators to fill the position. The acting superintendents pulled from the district’s executive cabinet, Eric Paugh and David Bond, took on the lead role in the district while maintaining their other responsibilities.”These are big positions,” Clawson said. “To add them together is too much for one person.”Clawson said he hears the frustration of the parents who want more time for the selection process. “Either way, we’re going to get beat up.”The specific timeline of events is available on the district Web site at, and is subject to review at each point in the hiring process.

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