As Ignacio Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto eyes a May retirement, the school district has set its sights on three possible replacements.
After announcing finalists for the superintendent position in mid-December, the Ignacio School District could offer the position to a finalist as soon as next week. Of the three candidates, two, Ricardo Esparza and Walter Coulter, are from outside Ignacio. Chris deKay, Ignacio’s curriculum director, is the only internal candidate among the finalists.
“I am feeling hopeful with the search prosses (sic). We had a tuff (sic) choice to narrow it down to the three,” said Kara Pearson, Ignacio school board president, in an email to The Durango Herald. “I believe that the three candidates have all the qualities this district needs. I look forward to meeting them in person.”
On Monday, the candidates will be interviewed by students, staff members, the school board and community members, said Janet Reinhardt, the district’s executive secretary.
The board could make its final selection as soon as Jan. 14, and the new superintendent will take over in July, she said.
The school district had 19 original applicants from 11 states when the application process closed Nov. 30, identified with the help of McPherson & Jacobson LLC, a nationwide employment agency.
The agency screened the applicants using input from stakeholder groups, said Norman Ridder, the consultant working with Ignacio.
The new superintendent will need to tackle a few ongoing issues in the school district, according to the stakeholder groups. That means focusing on addressing low student attendance, weak broadband internet access, low parental involvement, diversity in staffing, and student and staff retention.
Coulter is an education program administrator with the Bureau of Indian Education in Arizona. In that position, Coulter oversaw different facets of Native American education, including supplementary education programs, policy development and grant compliance, according to his application materials.
Coulter has almost two decades of leadership experience in education, including five positions as principal in either domestic or international school districts. He received a doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of Nevada in 2011 and has an administrator certification for Colorado.
Esparza is an education consultant for Solution Tree in Pagosa Springs. Since beginning as an education consultant in 2010, Esparza has also worked in real estate, as a school principal and as a project manager for Esparza Farms. He has about three decades of experience working in schools, including almost 15 years as a principal, according to his resume.
Esparza has published education-focused articles in the Harvard Education Press, USA Today and other national publications. He is in the process of completing a doctorate in education through the University of Northern Colorado.
DeKay graduated from the Ignacio School District and has worked in the district for decades, according to his application. He was the Ignacio Middle School principal from 2008 to 2020 before assuming his current role as curriculum director and assessment coordinator for the district.
DeKay was also a social studies teacher in Ignacio and Farmington for 15 years and an adjunct professor with Adams State University. He has a master’s degree in curriculum development from Adams State University in Colorado.