It’s been a challenging year for everyone involved in K-12 education, including those at the top. Five metro area school districts are currently looking for new superintendents.
The departures started in July of 2020, when JeffCo Public Schools’ Jason Glass left for a job in Kentucky. In September, Dr. Thomas Tucker resigned as superintendent of Douglas County School District, citing personal reasons. Susana Cordova surprised the Denver Public Schools community when she announced in November that she had accepted a new job in Dallas Public Schools. Sandra Smyser of the Poudre School District announced in January that she would retire. And Scott Siegfried will leave Cherry Creek Schools at the end of the semester.
Edward Quiñones wrote about the departures for the advocacy group A+ Colorado. He blames the pandemic for creating a more difficult situation than normal.
“There’s no set playbook to reference in these situations so it becomes that much more daunting for any superintendent to lead,” Quiñones said.
One superintendent still standing is Rico Munn, in Aurora Public Schools. Munn recently came under fire for exchanging strongly-worded letters with the Aurora Education Association. Other districts have also experienced tensions between school leaders, teachers, and families. Munn acknowledged that pandemic-related challenges likely led to the departures of his counterparts in other districts.
“I think it’s definitely a demonstration of a challenge when you look at the 10 largest districts in the state and five of them do not have a permanent superintendent going forward into next year. That’s close to half a million students. That’s billions of dollars in assets where there is no CEO in place,” Munn said.
Districts are currently in various stages of hiring new superintendents. JeffCo Public Schools and Douglas County School District have closed their application period. Douglas County hired executive search firm Frederick Andrews to conduct their search. Managing partner Tim Demers said they’ve encountered candidates who are talking to the other local districts, however he doesn’t think they’re competing with one another.
“They’re looking for something specific for JeffCo, something specific for Cherry Creek, and that may not be exactly what we’re looking for here (in Douglas County),” Demers said.
Demers said the Douglas County superintendent job was posted on diversity job boards, and Frederick Andrews directed some marketing efforts toward diverse candidates.
Quiñones said he feels a candidate of color is critical for Denver Public Schools, which is made up of 77% students of color and 37% English language learners.
Once districts name finalists, they will likely hold public town halls to allow the community to ask questions. School boards will make the final hiring decisions in April and May.