You can’t say the position didn’t draw a lot of interest.
Twenty-six candidates applied to become the next schools superintendent in Altoona, and officials culled the herd last week to three: David Munoz, Dan Peggs and Wayne Whitwam.
Munoz is the Menomonie High School principal, Peggs is the Altoona middle school principal and Whitwam is an elementary school principal in Centerville, Minn. Peggs and Whitwam earned their bachelor’s degrees at UW-Eau Claire.
The district could have its next superintendent relatively soon, as a final round of interviews is scheduled for Jan. 28-30.
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The job of superintendent is a decidedly challenging one. In the Altoona school district, you’re responsible for 1,623 students in 4K-12 and around 225 employees. Superintendents are well-compensated for their work, with most salaries landing well into the six figures.
Nevertheless, many areas of the U.S. are seeing a shortage in candidates for school administration positions. Retention also is a concern, as the 2017 AASA Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study by the School Superintendents Association found that more than half of survey respondents have been in their current positions for 1 to 5 years and less than 15 percent topped 10 years.
According to the position’s job description on the Altoona school district website, “The superintendent is a visionary and an advancer of current best practices, cost-saving measures, and ultimately makes decisions by asking, ‘What is in the best interest of the students?’ and ‘How will this affect student learning?’”
The three-page job description is broken into four core categories: leadership and district culture, curriculum planning and development, district operations, and communication and board relations. Each is followed by a list of at least six specific job duties.
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Ron Walsh has served as superintendent since Connie Biedron resigned from the post nearly a year ago after the school voted to negotiate her ouster, according to Leader-Telegram reporter Julian Emerson. It was revealed that “Biedron’s management style created a climate of fear and intimidation in Altoona schools, prompting some employees to leave the district,” Emerson reported.
“She just couldn’t connect with people,” said Todd Lenz, a member of an advisory committee that recommended against hiring Biedron in 2012 and an Altoona High School teacher, in an earlier story by Emerson. “We quickly came to an agreement that she wasn’t going to be a good fit for our district.”
Hopefully Munoz, Peggs or Whitwam will be. The board took a more thorough approach this time around.
“It’s been tough for everybody,” board member David Rowe said in an Emerson story toward the end of Biedron’s rocky tenure. “Now we want to move forward.”
It’s a sound approach for all involved.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor