District 861 School Board members narrowed a list of candidates for superintendent from five to two on Tuesday, but before the night was through it became clear: a majority of members prefer interim superintendent Scott Hannon for the post.
The board contracted with a consultant for the $11,000 search, a process that is still in its early stages with regard to learning more about the top applicants. On Monday and Tuesday, the board interviewed five candidates for the job, plucking two for second looks. Still on the table are final interviews, including three employee and community panel question sessions, as well as a site visit to one or both finalists' home community, and reference checks.
The board is expected to continue through the process, although with the opinions aired on Tuesday night about whether Hannon should be the permanent superintendent, how serious the recruitment process might be has become murky territory.
Board chair Greg Fellman, along with board members Gary Shurson, Steve Schild and Ben Baratto, voiced support for a continued union with Hannon over the five finalists they had just interviewed.
Last August, Schild was essentially the tie breaker in the question of whether to even conduct a search at all, during the eve of the vote for the search consultant contract when Fellman, Shurson and Baratto advocated to simply offer the position to Hannon. Hannon then declared he would not participate in any recruitment process in which he would compete for the permanent job, but would take it if offered.
Tuesday, it was Schild who took the lead in the discussion about preference for Hannon. When the board was queried about which candidates they would like to call back for consideration, Schild said he simply did not have a name to put forward. He questioned the size of the school districts that candidates had worked in, noting that all but one had never worked in a district the size of 861.
Several board members expressed an issue with the fact that one of the two finalists chosen hasn’t yet completed his doctorate degree, although the board opted not to require that when it defined the criteria for the search process in the fall.
When pressed about his opinion by board member Mohamed Elhindi, Schild explained that based on the initial interviews, he simply did not want to put forward a name for further consideration for the job. “I mean no negativity to anybody who’s applied,” he said.
The comment opened the door for some candid discussion about whether the majority of the board would, in the end, appoint Hannon to the post.
“Is the pool [of candidates] better than what we have?” asked Fellman. “I’m struggling with that.”
“I agree,” echoed Shurson. “You know, change just for the sake of change isn’t necessarily the smartest thing, either.” We know what we have now in Hannon, he continued; four board members wanted to go through the search process, and we did.
Board member Michelle Langowski said that the board should stick with the process it voted and paid to conduct, and Baratto stated that after the final interviews may be the point to continue discussion about Hannon as a contender.
Schild said there was no reason the board could not speak freely about the potential for Hannon to stay on. “I’m glad people speak from the heart,” he said.
The two finalists selected for the job are Andrew Pattee and Jerry Schutz.
Schutz holds a master of science in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University, is currently superintendent of Tea Area District in South Dakota, and has served that post since 2009. He was superintendent in Neenah, Wis. for more than four years and superintendent for Keio, Wis. for three years. A member of the armed forces, Schutz also worked in radio before education.
Pattee holds an educational doctorate degree from Drake University, is currently the superintendent of Charles City and Riceville schools in Iowa, where he has served since 2008. He was formerly the principal in Oskaloosa, and is a third generation school administrator.
Other candidates interviewed during the first round included Jamie Skjeveland, Christine Weymouth, and Rick Linnell. Anne Lundquist was selected for an interview, but declined after taking a job elsewhere.