The four finalists for the superintendent post at Dolores School District RE-4A have been selected, and they are now in the last phase of the interview process.
Dolores teachers, school board directors and residents gathered in the high school commons to chat with the candidates at a meet-and-greet event Monday afternoon, a few days before the final superintendent selection would take place.
The four finalists are John Marchino, currently serving as a dean of students and athletic director in Dolores; Silvia McNeely, a school superintendent in Wannette, Oklahoma; Patrick “Tony” O’Brien, a school superintendent in Newcastle, Oklahoma; and Elisabeth Richard, a school superintendent in Creede, Colorado.
Teams consisting of staff, community members, parents, and a student are interviewing the finalists throughout the day Tuesday.
The board and interview teams are then set to debrief at 5 p.m., followed by an executive session, at which time the board will finalize the superintendent contract terms and negotiations.
Board President Kay Phelps said they expect to announce the chosen candidate by Thursday.
While they may now be in the midst of stressful final interview rounds, Monday’s meet-and-greet was a casual event, as candidates chatted informally with constituents about their background, experiences, and priorities.
John MarchinoMarchino was hired as a dean of students and athletic director in RE-4A in July 2018. Before that, he was in charge of the health and wellness program in Durango School District 9-R, along with serving as principal of Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary School for six years.
He was a finalist for the superintendent position in Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 back in 2016.
Marchino said that being a superintendent has been a career goal of his ever since he became an administrator.
“The reason why I got into administration was to help more kids be successful,” he said. “And I feel as a superintendent I have a hand in everything going on in the district, so I can help more kids be successful by helping the district be more efficient and focused.”
Should he be selected, Marchino said his priorities would be centered around creating solid plans for curriculum and professional development, social and emotional learning programming, and repairing aging district facilities.
Silvia McNeelyMcNeely has worked in Wannette Public Schools for the past 4½ years, serving as superintendent and PK-12 principal since January 2016 and as principal before that, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Prior to that, she worked in Holdenville, Oklahoma as a teacher, high school assistant principal, and curriculum director, again according to her LinkedIn page.
McNeely said that she was especially attracted to the Dolores position because she used to work in Alamosa, Colorado, and has had a positive experience with the people in this state.
“I’ve always had a desire to be a contributor, anywhere I live,” she said. “I want to be positive, I want to contribute. Being a superintendent empowers. That you can empower other people in order to meet a goal, a common goal or objective.”
Should she be chosen for the job, she said her immediate priority would be to find the “pulse” of the community, in order to meet all constituents’ needs.
Patrick ‘Tony’ O’BrienO’Brien has served as superintendent in Newcastle, Oklahoma, since June 2012. Before that, he was a superintendent in two other Oklahoma school districts: Frederick Public Schools from 2005-12 and Cheraw Public Schools for two years before that, according to his resume posted online.
He said he found the Dolores position because he was seeking a superintendent post outside the state of Oklahoma. After speaking with representatives from the Colorado Association of School Boards, which has been helping RE-4A throughout the superintendent search process, he felt the position would be a good fit.
“I have a lot of experience in the superintendency, so I can help you all and help myself at the same time,” O’Brien said.
If selected, O’Brien said that his first priority would be to focus on learning about Southwest Colorado, in order to lead the district in a strong direction.
Elisabeth RichardRichard is superintendent in the Creede School District, located to the northeast in Mineral County. She has worked in education for over 30 years, according to the district website, with experience as both an administrator and a classroom teacher.
She has also served on the Rural Education Council for the Colorado Department of Education.
Richard said that she has family around Dolores, and that she and her husband are planning on relocating to the area no matter what – the superintendent opening was a “wonderful opportunity,” she said.
“Empowering staff to be effective with their job, giving them the tools they need, helping them with their facility needs and helping them with program needs,” she said. “I feel like I’m the biggest servant here, I have to work hard for them so they can do their job well. That’s what I enjoy, is empowering others.”
Should she be chosen, she said she would focus first on supporting existing leadership and making sure that all stakeholders have a voice in the district’s direction.