SD2 trustees re-interview 2 more finalists

2010-03-30T23:11:00Z SD2 trustees re-interview 2 more finalistsROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
March 30, 2010 11:11 pm  • 

Billings School District 2 trustees conducted follow-up interviews of their final two superintendent candidates by video Tuesday night and then spent an hour deciding the process they will use Monday to choose who will be the new superintendent.

Trustees started the meeting by speaking first with Keith Beeman, assistant superintendent of human resources for Chino Valley Unified School District in Southern California, and then with Keith Meyer, assistant superintendent of Helena Public Schools.

Trustees questioned Beeman on what skills outside of human resources he had that would allow him to manage a school district.

Beeman said his experience in human resources is “a very strong springboard into other areas.”

He pointed to a number of experiences creating budgets, conducting teacher development, managing facilities and staff management.

He talked about the challenges facing SD2 — the district is projecting a $6 million budget shortfall by 2013 — and said he was ready to work with the board, district staff and the community to resolve those issues.

“I understand there’s going to be pain in change,” he said. “There will be casualties. We have to be able to accept that.”

As trustees questioned Meyer, many were interested to know if he was qualified to make the jump from assistant superintendent of a small district to superintendent of a large one.

“I’ve had many opportunities to be involved with running ... the day-to-day operations of the district,” he said. “I keep the ship afloat. I’m the person on call for the district.”

The interviews Monday and Tuesday night cap a process that began Feb. 15 when the SD2 board announced that it had chosen six superintendent candidates to vie for Jack Copps’ position when he leaves the district in June.

By the time the applicants had traveled to Billings at the end of February to meet the community, tour the district and interview with the board, one candidate had already dropped out. The remaining five spent two days shaking hands, answering questions and listening to concerns.

Shortly after, Cole Pugh, a superintendent from Fort Worth, Texas, removed his name from the running, and the board was left to decide among Meyer; Beeman; Scott Rogers, superintendent of the Minidoka County School District in Rupert, Idaho; and Eric Ely, superintendent of the Schenectady City School District in New York.

During that time, trustees had fielded questions regarding a controversy involving a past employee of Ely’s and by early March had decided to fly out to Schenectady to visit his home district and then travel to Chino to visit Beeman’s. However, pressure to extend a contract to one of the candidates by the end of March as well as trustees’ conflicting schedules forced the board to scrap its decision to visit the two districts.

Instead, trustees again interviewed the four candidates by video on Monday and Tuesday.

“The process has worked fine,” said board Chairman Malcolm Goodrich.

The final step will take place Monday when trustees meet again to rank the four candidates and chose the one to whom they will extend a contract.

As exhaustion began to set in Tuesday night and trustees dithered about the exact process they would use to rank the candidates, Goodrich implored the board to work together to create a consensus and finish the job.

“I’m going to strongly suggest we come to a conclusion on that evening,” Goodrich said.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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