Residents got their first face-to-face look at the person who likely will lead Durango School District 9-R beginning in July with the arrival of the three finalists to be the next superintendent.
The three finalists are:
Robert Lundin, a consultant with Burns/Van Fleet Educational Consulting of Houston.Karen Cheser, superintendent of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools of Kentucky.Andrew Burns, director of talent acquisition with the Pueblo School District.The school board is scheduled to meet Thursday in a closed session to determine which of the three will be asked to fill the position being vacated by Dan Snowberger, who announced in November this will be his last year at the helm at 9-R.
The three candidates met community leaders, top 9-R administrators and charter school leaders for a luncheon Monday at the DoubleTree hotel, and they delivered remarks at an open community forum at 6 p.m. Monday on Zoom.
Asked what factors develop excellent educational services at the luncheon, Cheser cited some “universal strategies,” including strong professional learning, a focused direction and vision for curriculum, and a district that can support and assess each student’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Every student does deserve an excellent educator. That’s why we’re here. This is what we’re about,” she said. “And it is our role to ensure that that’s happening every day.”
Lundin said “casting a wide net” in finding teachers is a good way to build a strong teaching corps.
“To find teachers, you want to not just look at people going through programs in elementary and secondary education,” he said. “Look at the engineers who decided they may want to teach math or go to folks who specialize in communications, who can teach rhetoric or drama or English language arts. It requires casting that net.”
He agreed with Cheser that robust professional development for teachers and for professionals looking to enter teaching is key.
He called for providing mentorship opportunities to teachers.
“We want opportunities so people wrap their time in becoming master teachers and experts in their craft to serve kids for the long term,” he said.
Burns, who until earlier this year served as 9-R’s deputy superintendent, said building strong educational services extends beyond the core group of teachers.
“Anybody that works in the school district is an educator from an hourly paraprofessional, to the bus driver, to the superintendent. They are all educators,” he said. “When I oversaw our transportation department here in Durango, I would tell our bus drivers, you’re the first person our students see, and you’re the last person that they see – you are an educator, you make a difference in their lives.”
In the Zoom meeting at 6 p.m., Burns said after the challenging year the COVID-19 pandemic created for schools, 9-R is poised for growth.
“We’re building an educational system that works for all students,” he said.
Cheser said she is committed to ensure school is a dynamic place for all children: “I am passionate to make sure every student can dream and we do everything possible to fulfill those dreams.”
Lundin said he wants to learn from everyone in the district as a first step: “The best leaders enter with respect and humility. I can learn from everyone in the district.”
A video of the Zoom meeting will be put on 9-R’s website through 5 p.m. Tuesday.