D14 school board approves proposal for superintendent search

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District 14 staff, faculty and administrators wave during their mid-August 2022 welcome back to school gathering.

I was impressed with its comprehensive nature. — Christi-Marie Butler

By William J. Dagendesh

The Manitou Springs School District 14 Board of Education has approved a McPherson & Jacobson proposal to search for a replacement for Superintendent Elizabeth Domangue, who resigned Jan. 20.

The board members cast their votes during a Feb. 8 special meeting held to determine whether to move forward with that proposal, look for another search company or consider another option.

During the Feb. 2 work session, Walt Cooper, Ed.D., a recruitment consultant with the Omaha-based McPherson & Jacobson, shared ideas with the board. Cooper, who retired as superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 about 18 months ago, connected with McPherson & Jacobson when seeking his own replacement.

On Feb. 8, BOE President Natalie Johnson said the Colorado Association of School Boards historically has handled superintendent searches for D14, but no longer offers that service. Johnson said the district approached McPherson & Jacobson and asked to see what the superintendent search would look like through that agency.

“We reached out to the Colorado Education Initiative and they had never held a superintendent search before. But they were interested in the idea and sent along some ideas and not a formal proposal,” Johnson said.

“In case anyone out there is looking for any kind of a side hustle, I think there’s an opportunity in the community to potentially do superintendent searches. But, based on where we are right now, [we] have one contract before us and I wanted to discuss this with all of you.”

Director Christi-Marie Butler said she read every word of the 33-page contract.

“Recognizing the reasoning that we don’t have more to compare to, I was impressed with its comprehensive nature. … I don’t have any red flags based on all the information presented,” Butler said.

Director Gus Moen agreed. “Seems very thorough. … seems like the group knows what they’re doing,” he said. “It would be nice to have some other options … for comparison’s sake, but given that we don’t and what is presented before us looks to be very thorough and professional, I would be comfortable moving forward.”

Director Tina Vidovich also agreed, noting that a lengthier search could have yielded fewer results.

“I think we could spend a lot more money and not get as much service as we are getting with this and from prior superintendent searches that I have seen completed,” Vidovich said.

“I am perfectly happy to move forward with this group, given the caveat that I was pretty insistent at the last meeting that we have a broad range of applicants brought to us. … I think this is a local person from a larger company who knows us and the region.”

In a Jan. 20 letter to Johnson, Domangue described MSSD14 as “an amazing school district with many wonderful people” and unique opportunities in a beautiful setting.

“I feel fortunate to have gotten to know our students, staff and families over the years. … I am immensely proud of all we have accomplished together during these times. Thank you for the opportunity to lead this amazing community. I will always have a special place in my heart and my head for Manitou Springs School District,” Domangue wrote.

During the Feb. 2, meeting Johnson said the district looks forward to building on Domangue’s success as it takes Manitou forward to its next chapter. Johnson said Domangue is leaving D14 in a better position than when she arrived nearly four years ago.

“Her systemic work on curriculum, instruction and multi-tiered systems of support for students will continue to support learning for years to come. Tackling COVID and other unprecedented events, she kept our students in the classroom and managed our schools in ways that have now been adopted nationally,” Johnson said.

Eric McMartin, who has served as assistant superintendent of Instruction and Innovation since January 2020, attended the Feb. 8 meeting. McMartin will continue to serve as interim superintendent until a candidate is selected. Domangue said she will remain an employee of D14 until June 30.

McMartin thanked the board for its involvement with the proposal.

“I appreciate you taking the time … and in being thoughtful about the process, which will help us move forward,” he said.

Guidelines will be discussed at the next meeting, planned for 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.

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