Will the new GFPS Superintendent be the same old, same old?
Recently the USA Today Network, aka the Great Falls Tribune, reported that a “Superintendent ‘Meet and Greet’ set Sunday”. The field of applicants has been reduced from seven to three, and the finalists will be presented to the public at the Paris Gibson Education Center cafeteria from 1 to 3 pm this Sunday, January 13, 2019.
According to the Tribune, “the Montana School Boards Association and the Great Falls Public Schools board of trustees are giving the community a chance to meet the final three candidates”.
Those making the cut are Tom Moore, existing GFPS Assistant Superintendent for Secondary, Jon Konen, Principal at Lincoln Elementary, and Gregory Nyen, Waupaca School District Superintendent in Waupaca, Wisconsin. Both Moore and Konen have been employed by GFPS since 2007.
According to GFPS, Interviews and a final decision will be made by the school district on January 16, 2019.
The obvious question we have is; what role in the narrowing down, or the cut, did Great Falls parents and taxpayers play in the selection process?
It seems very little, if at all, in spite of our suggestion that community members chosen from the various neighborhood councils be given the opportunity to be part of the process beginning last December.
In my opinion, the GFPS District is facing an increasing challenge with sustainability as evidenced by an almost annual request of the local taxpayers to supplement its operational budget. Rather than the current job description for the superintendent to be a cheerleader to get levies passed, the main goal for a new superintendent should be to improve measurable student results and new operational strategies.
Just one area to seriously explore might be the consolidation of our existing elementary schools. This is something the current superintendent dismissed without a second thought. Considering that the Billings school district has 32 schools and a 2017 population of 110,000, and the Great Falls school district has 20 schools and a 2017 population of 59,000, there would seem to an opportunity to reduce our school district financial footprint and achieve operational savings.
In other words, ideas to improve student opportunities and outcomes should be more important in the selection of a school superintendent for GFPS than levy salesmanship.
The public should have more than two days to weigh in before the final selection.