superintendent search

Carolyn McKennan, with the search firm HYA, meets with business and community members about the search for a new superintendent for School District 2 at the Lincoln Center in January. 

The national search for the next Billings Public School superintendent will truly have a national candidate field.

Of the 22 applicants for the job, only one candidate hails from Montana and only one is from Wyoming.

None applied from within School District 2.

Trustees have emphasized that they wanted candidates with large-district experience throughout the search process to replace Terry Bouck, who's retiring at the end of the school year. They'll interview six semifinalists Monday and Tuesday:

  • Kevin Aten, director of innovation and instruction for Estes Park schools in Colorado. The district enrolls about 1,000 students. 
  • George Bickert, superintendent of Ruidoso schools in New Mexico. The district enrolls about 2,000 students. 
  • Barry Bryant, superintendent for Bighorn County School District No. 3 in Greybull, Wyoming. The district has about 500 students enrolled.
  • Ross Kasun, superintendent of Freehold Township schools in New Jersey. Freehold, a K-8 district, enrolls about 3,700 students.
  • Rebecca Salato, the Chief Operating Officer for Action Learning Systems. She previously worked in the Beaumont Unified School District in California, which has about 10,000 students this school year. 
  • Greg Upham, assistant superintendent for Helena schools. Helena enrolls about 8,000 students. Upham was a finalist for Helena's superintendent position, but the district selected a different candidate. 

Chris Hines, deputy superintendent of operations for Conroe Independent schools in Texas, was initially selected as a semifinalist but withdrew from consideration Wednesday afternoon. Conroe has more than 61,000 students.  

Resumes for each of the candidates were not immediately available. Candidate selection occurred during a two-hour long closed session at a Wednesday morning special meeting.

The district hired Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to conduct the search. The firm posted the job and solicited candidates; it's now up to trustees to make their pick. 

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"I think we have a range of districts, from small to large," said board chairwoman Greta Besch Moen. "I think we have a good pool."

Trustees also hashed out interview questions during open session.

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Some questions looked at specific issues like union negotiations, diversity and inclusiveness, "creative" funding mechanisms and levy and bond campaigns.

Others were more open ended, looking at leadership qualities. 

"I want them to come up with the answer I want to hear from them without leading them down the primrose path," said trustee Joe Raffiani. 

Many questions also asked candidates to cite examples. 

"We want a proven leader," Besch Moen said. "We want someone with a proven track record."

Trustees plan to narrow the field to three finalists who will be interviewed on April 11, 12 and 13, with accompanying public meet-and-greets. April 14 is the target date to pick the new superintendent. 

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