Four finalists for the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District superintendent position met with the public Monday at M-CHS.
The candidates are interim superintendent Lori Haukeness, Durango school district health and wellness director John Marchino, Wisconsin education service agency director Joe Price and Del Norte superintendent Nathan Smith.
Board of Education president Jack Schuenemeyer said the board received 12 applications for the position before narrowing the search down to four finalists. Board members will meet this month to discuss the candidates, but Schuenemeyer said they’re not operating with any set deadline to seat a superintendent. He said the board will take the time to make sure it seats a superintendent that is the right fit for the district.
Haukeness has served as interim superintendent since Alex Carter’s resignation in January. Before Carter resigned, Haukeness worked with him closely on administrative matters, she said.
“I feel that I’ve been instrumental in supporting our schools and teachers and would like to carry that forward,” Haukeness said Monday.
Haukeness has been involved with the district for 22 years, having previously served as principal at Mesa Elementary. In Carter’s administration, Haukeness was assistant superintendent for curriculum and public instruction.
Marchino works in the Durango School District 9-R central office and is in charge of the district’s health and wellness program. He was principal of Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary School for six years, leading that school to an improvement award from the governor’s office two years in a row, he said. He also was president of the Colorado Association of Elementary School Principals last year, he said.
If he were seated as superintendent, he would help facilitate learning and collaboration between teachers, principals and administrators, he said.
“We would need to make sure we’re learning instructional practices that help student engagement and learning best practices from each other,” Marchino said.
Price is head of a Cooperative Educational Service Agency, or CESA, in Wisconsin, which is that state’s equivalent of a BOCES organization. He previously served as a superintendent in Wisconsin for 12 years, he said. It’s been a goal for Price to move west, so he watched for openings and applied in Cortez, he said.
He said his focus would be on student achievement.
“I judge my success as an educator by increases in achievement,” he said.
As head of the CESA, Price said he works with 31 school districts and helps them look at data to address issues in their districts.
Smith has been the superintendent of Del Norte School District, which has about 400 students, for five years, he said. He has experience at various levels of public instruction, having served previously as a principal and an athletic director.
Finances are always an issue for school districts, Smith said. He said he would focus on academic performance.
“It will boil down to that and what we will do to help kids master skills and the curriculum here,” he said.
All four candidates said they feel the school district is on the brink of something great.
Haukeness said she would help develop school technology and advocate for alternative learning programs to give students more opportunities. She pointed to Southwest Health Systems as a model, saying the company has developed an excellent system for the area. She said the district could do that, too.
“We can move forward with the district to develop community relations and make students competitive with others around the nation,” Haukeness said.
Marchino said the school district is poised to make some strides forward. He said the district needs to provide time for its teachers to look at data and determine what’s effective.
“It’s a process of learning and looking to see if programs in the classroom are helping,” he said. “It’s about learning what’s best for everyone.”
Price said he saw the potential for the district when he took a tour.
“There’s lots of potential to grow and improve,” he said. “We would need to be open to suggestions and keep things on the table.”
Smith said there are good things going on in the district. Monitoring and analysis of data would continue to be a focus if he was superintendent, he said.
“(Teachers and administrators) are making decisions based on data, and that has to happen,” he said. “I wouldn’t step in and change everything, but I would make sure those things happen.”