The deadline to apply for the School District 2 superintendent job came to a close Wednesday and nearly 20 people had applied.
By Wednesday morning, the firm conducting the superintendent search had 17 applicants with the possibility of two more coming in by the end of the day, said Jeana Lervick, SD2's director of human resources.
The relatively large number of applicants is a good sign for SD2. The district got a late start in the application process and trustees worried whether they would get a sizable group of candidates.
Also adding pressure was that the Helena and Bozeman school districts are currently searching for superintendents.
But seeing the large number of applicants was encouraging news, said board Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe.
"That's good," she said.
The district's previous superintendent search, two years ago, brought in 22 applicants. From that group, the board hired Keith Beeman, who resigned under pressure from the district 18 months later.
In hopes of having a better experience this time, trustees voted to use the superintendent search firm McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha, Neb.
The firm tailors its search based on feedback it gets from the community and criteria it's given by the district. The firm then screens the applicants it receives. It charged SD2 $18,000 for its services.
Along with using the search firm to attract better candidates, trustees also bumped up the salary range for the superintendent position, going to a spread of $155,000 to $180,000.
Beeman earned $160,000 a year. The representatives from McPherson & Jacobson told trustees that similar-sized school districts in Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota paid their superintendents upward of $180,000.
The board will receive a full list of candidates Thursday and trustees then will pick their top three or four choices. They hope to conduct interviews by the end of April or beginning of May.
In the middle of the superintendent search are the SD2 trustee elections on May 8. Three seats on the board are up for grabs.
To ensure that the new board has buy-in with the new superintendent, trustees voted in February to wait to hire until after elections. That way, it would be the new trustees who decide which superintendent will take over the district.
Jack Copps, who has been serving as interim superintendent since Beeman's departure, finishes up at the end of June. The new superintendent would start at the beginning of July.