D14 school board discusses superintendent selection guidelines

News  /  Village

By William J. Dagendesh

On Monday, Feb. 13, the Manitou Springs School District 14 Board of Education met with a consultant from the McPherson & Jacobson executive recruitment and development firm to discuss the board’s guidelines in selecting a replacement for Superintendent Elizabeth Domangue, who resigned Jan. 20.

Walt Cooper, who has a doctorate in education and is a former superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, provided board members with a packet outlining procedures for candidate selection. The board reviewed the process and expectations, and Cooper touched on the confidentiality affidavit.

“Confidentiality through this process is extremely important to the candidates and for clients … and it’s also the law,” Cooper said.

“We have talked about being very transparent and very engaging through the search. We certainly are going to do that at every opportunity, but not at the expense of violating confidence in terms of candidate applications, information and background.”

Cooper said the most useful information his firm receives doesn’t come from the recommendations candidates have in their files, but from networks and consultants across the country.

“It comes from folks we know. … We have 130,000 McPherson & Jacobson folks [who] work superintendent searches across the country. At the end of the day, we probably know somebody that knows somebody, so it’s the second and third-degree reference checks, background checks and calls we make that provide us the best information,” Cooper said.

The BOE concurred.

“That is most reassuring,” Director Jack Sharon said.

The search is intricately detailed as it defines the role of the superintendent, sets a salary range, and identifies and prioritizes the board’s needs and desires for a new superintendent.

The search process must establish a timeline for creating the application, collecting applicants, screening applications, checking backgrounds, interviewing, making decisions and choosing the successful candidate’s start date. It will engage representative staff and community members in a process to determine their desires for their next school district leader.

Also, the process is designed to develop and distribute a promotional digital brochure about the position and the district, place state and national advertisements to interest candidates, and recruit potential candidates based on the profile the board, staff and community have identified.

The search uses the district’s online system to collect applications and manages application files and candidate correspondence with strict confidentiality. It thoroughly screens applicants and guides the board through the finalist selection process.

Also, it establishes an open and comprehensive interview process to guarantee a professional, thorough and legal interview procedure.

People involved in the search are tasked with selecting a single finalist and negotiating a contract, assisting the district in working with the news media throughout the process, establishing a comprehensive entry plan and conducting a thorough first-year performance assessment.

At the Feb. 13 meeting, Cooper and the board discussed meeting again in early April, when they’ll study the finalists identified and their video responses to three questions. It will then be up to the BOE to interview the finalists and make its selection.

However, some residents do not want a new superintendent and are unhappy about Domangue’s departure.

In a letter presented to the BOE, Matt Malloy, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Manitou Springs Middle School, said he had felt confident in the district administration and its vision for the district as a whole, but that his feelings changed when he read that Domangue and the board agreed to a separation agreement.

“I’m speaking in support of Dr. Domangue. … I see [this] as a gross mishandling of the situation, primarily by the BOE,” Malloy wrote.

“My chief complaint lies in the board’s decision to, as I and many other staff and community members see it, push the most effective superintendent I’ve worked for out the door in the middle of the school year because her politics may have had some former staff leave the district …”

Malloy said nothing he has heard or experienced regarding Domangue made him question working in D14.

“But, this weekend, I did begin to contemplate my commitment to a district run by a BOE that would put the district through a traumatic, distracting and crippling event like the loss of an incredible superintendent over unsubstantiated claims,” Malloy wrote.

Brandon DeMatto, a physical education teacher and coach at Manitou Springs High School, is the parent of a first-grader at Manitou Springs Elementary. He too, wrote to express concern over Domangue’s departure.

“BOE, whether you realize this or not, who you choose to succeed Dr. Domangue is going to be the single most important decision this district has ever made. MSSD14 is at a crossroad. … Make no mistake that eyes will be watching your next move. We are about kids here. I suggest the board get on board,” DeMatto wrote.

Eric McMartin, the district’s assistant superintendent of instruction and innovation since January 2020, will continue serving as interim superintendent until a candidate is selected.

Also see related stories here and here.

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