Superintendent candidates interviewed

MEEKER I Below is a question and answer transcript of the Meeker School Board’s April 3 interviews of the two candidates for new Meeker School District superintendent.

Last week, the Meeker Board of Education (BOE) selected Chris Selle, currently the superintendent of schools for the Custer County Consolidated School District in Westcliffe, Colo., to become new superintendent effective July 1.
The other finalist was Richard Walter, Sr., superintendent of the Miami-Yoder School District in Rush, Colo.
Both men were interviewed by the district Board of Education. The following is a sample of the board’s questions and candidate answers:
Critical issues facing k-12 education: Chris Selle (CS): School financing and budgeting with emphasis on getting the Colorado Legislature to better reform financing. Richard Walter (RW): Common core standards and changing ground rules, not really knowing what will be expected of us tomorrow, plus promoting and ensuring continuity.
On their strengths and weaknesses: Strengths—CS: Desire to be honest, transparent and credible. RW: Experience (26 years in education); has led several schools through some pretty rough times. Weaknesses—CS: Tendency not to delegate, allowing focus to become too wide. RW: His passion, hates to see kids get hurt (academically or otherwise).
Top superintendent duties: CS: 1) Being the instructional leader; 2) being the primary advisor to the school board. RW: 1) providing a safe and secure environment for the kids; 2) being here for the academics and working closely with all elements of the community.
Professional growth of staff: CS: Hire and keep teachers that have the desire and motivation to grow, and have the resources in place to support professional growth, including going to the community for such support. RW: Encourage and reward professional development, but remember that a one-size-fits-all approach leaves some people out.
Curriculum: CS: 1) Make sure curriculum is aligned with standards, but realize there’s no one size fits all; that subjective adjustments are necessary, 2) Hard work. RW: Not my background, but it’s the backbone of what we do—support teachers, the experts—in developing and maintaining the appropriate curricula. He said he developed, with the Pagosa Springs superintendent, a Colorado “model” curriculum now available through the Colorado Department of Education which can provide a base for local control adaptation.
Staff morale: CS: Proper remuneration and maintain a working environment that is positive, innovative and develops trust. RW: Get out and talk to folks; communicate; build relationships with people in the community.
Budgeting: CS: Keep after the legislature regarding the “negative factor” and other school financing issues; priority setting; identify areas that must be preserved; use at least partial zero-based budgeting to focus the conversation. RW: Make sure it’s real. Make projections—try to understand where the legislature is going. Prioritize. Review “Financing 101” with the board and interested public.
Extra-curricular activities: CS: Very important; fantastic learning opportunities for confidence-building, leadership, decision-making and educating the “whole child.” Sports can also help build the budget; people want to see sports events. RW: Balance the need and desires with academic experience.
Communication: CS: Good and effective communication with school board, staff and community very important; must be involved with the community, write articles for the paper, meet with folks face to face, celebrate the good things, promote volunteer programs. RW: Superintendent and principals need to be out in the community; meet directly with folks, be a good writer and a good listener; invite confrontations into the office.
Expected tenure: CS: would like to stay in one place at least 10 years; we don’t like to keep uprooting our kids. RW: Would hope to be here in three to five years. Not a ladder climber, want to give it my all. Would like to establish myself in the community. This hasn’t been possible at Miami-Yoder where I’ve had to live 40 miles away (Colorado Springs) from the community I’m serving.
Pluses and minuses of a small town: CS: Kids can have much broader experience in small town schools; you’re not “solely a football player,” etc. The negatives are that everyone knows your business, it’s a reality. Plus, maintaining the school economics are tougher since some resources are simply more expensive to bring to a small town. RW: I grew up in a small town in Washington. Looking forward to returning to that kind of experience. The disadvantages are the cliques and kinships interfering with normal relationships.