Superintendent candidates face the public

The Central Kitsap School Board and community panel met with six superintendent candidates this week and now must whittle the field down to three. While the community panel reached a consensus based on hourlong interviews held Wednesday and Thursday at Ridgetop Junior High, the board hammered out its choice in an executive session Friday morning. Board member Bruce Richards did not participate in preliminary interviews due to a family emergency.

At press time, the finalists had not been announced.

Candidates were interviewed separately, first introducing themselves then answering 11 questions from the board. After each interview the community panel — made up of parents, district employees, students and military personnel — listed the positives and the concerns they had. They also had a rating sheet with the questions and what to look for in the candidate’s answers.

First up Wednesday was Col. Gregory Lynch, dean of academics for the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who said his skills from the military would transfer to managing and leading the school district. He has been at his position for a year and supervises 600 employees with a budget of $60 million. He has served as the director for the Army School at Fort Leavenworth and as a Brigade Commander at Fort Polk, La.

“My goal is to continue to provide service to the community ... I feel a strong obligation to give back to children,” he told the board when asked about his long-range goals.

On his trip Central Kitsap he visited schools, talked to people at the mall and met with bus drivers to get a feel for the district. This impressed the panel as did his straightforward answers, though they were concerned he did not touch on education issues such as charter schools.

Next up was Tim Culver, superintendent for the Sun Prairie (Wisc.) Area School District. He has been at the helm since July 1998. The district, in a suburb of Madison, has a student enrollment of 5,200 with 717 employees and a budget of $44.6 million. Previously he was an assistant superintendent, a principal and an assistant principal for the Marysville School District, where he spent 10 years. He was a counselor for the Everett school district and began his teaching career in 1978 in Auburn.

Culver believes the principal is the heart of each school and explained a successful board superintendent relationship.

“I believe a successful relationship looks like teamwork,” the school board governs and the superintendent is there to manage, he said. “The line between management and governance is not always a clear and direct line.”

The panel favored Culver as one of their three finalists saying his experience in the classroom and casual speaking style made him more accessible.

The panel also urged the board to choose Richard Schulte, superintendent for the Oak Harbor School District, as a finalist. He has spent the past 17 years working for the district, which has 6,000 students, 680 employees and an annual budget of $40 million. He hopes to return to Kitsap now that his daughter is graduating high school and he has completed many of the projects he set out to do. He served as assistant superintendent for the Oak Harbor School District, and as the interim principal of Bremerton High School.

He is well-versed in working in a military community and guided his district through financial problems to stable footing.

“You have to engage in selective abandonment,” he told the board when asked about how he would handle the anticipated decrease in state funding. “Curriculum clutter” needs to be eliminated and districts should focus on their existing funds, he said.

The panel liked Schulte’s familiarity with a military community and his trustworthiness, but criticized his lack of warmth and questioned his level of dealing with students.

Thursday’s candidates brought in Fred Maiocco, assistant superintendent of support services for Aurora (Colo.) Public Schools. The district has about 32,000 students and an annual budget of $300 million.

He said his extensive knowledge of the facility process helped pass a $225 million bond with a 66 percent approval rating.

“That did not happen by accident. Community involvement is the key,” he said as he outlined his district’s plan for a successful election. He promised the board members to address CK’s bond situation first if selected for the job.

Maiocco has ties to Washington, having served as the assistant superintendent in the Richland School District and as the transportation director in the Issaquah School District.

Next up was Debra Aungst, assistant superintendent for management services in the Puyallup School District. The district has about 20,000 students and a budget of $142 million.

“I’m not quite Pollyanna, but I see things in a positive light,” she said as she told members how she dealt with a $1.7 million deficit handed to her the first few days on the job. That year she cut $800,000 from the budget. She was able to get the district back on track in two years.

Her past experience includes serving as the assistant superintendent of business and business manager in Renton School District.

“Having adequate facilities for students is absolutely critical,” she said following the interview.

The panel noticed little mention of students, learning and schools during the interview, but said Augnst seemed to be a nice person. They also questioned her cuts of more than $4 million from the budget, which she did not elaborate on.

Bernard Oliver both intrigued and mystified the panel. He serves as assistant superintendent for high school education for Virginia Beach City Public Schools (Va.) The district has a student enrollment of 75,000 and a budget of $370 million.

One of 17 children, Oliver credits his parents for encouraging his education and career that has centered around higher education. His past experience includes serving as a dean, professor and endowed chair at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and as a dean and professor at Washington State University.

Although he has experience at different levels of education the challenges are the same. Those include closing the achievement gap and making schools accessible to all people.

“My parents, even with 17 children didn’t visit the schools a lot because they didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “We don’t really do enough selling that we are caring individuals.”

The panel was impressed with Oliver’s charisma and concern for the district’s diversity. They were curious to learn more about him and urged the board to bring him back as a finalist.

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