Finalists named in district's search for new Coupeville superintendent

Prediction: The next superintendent of Coupeville schools will be a veteran administrator credentialed through Seattle Pacific University’s superintendent training program. He will inherit a school district made successful largely through the auspices of his predecessor, a tough act to follow. And, due to declining enrollment and state budget cuts, there will be some difficult financial matters to deal with.

Other than that, it’s a toss up.

Winnowed from an original batch of 26 applicants, three finalists have emerged in the hunt to fill the shoes of the current superintendent, Dr. Suzanne Bond, who is retiring.

The finalists are:

The finalists are Bill Myhr, Harry Vanikiotis and Don Brannam, and this week they will be busy men indeed.

Myhr, Vanikiotis and Brannam were identified as finalist on Tuesday by the Coupeville School District Superintendent Search Committee, a 15-member group appointed by the school board. The candidates themselves were chosen from a group of six semi-finalists hand-picked last week by Dr. Richard Smith, a search consultant hired by the district, and approved by the board with only one change.

Smith, a former Coupeville superintendent who is currently an instructor at SPU, was responsible for helping the district find the popular Bond in 1996.

Mitchell Howard, school board president, said that perhaps his most important criterion in assessing the candidates “is a sense that they are ready and able to dovetail with this community in the sense of fitting into the environment, and to grow with the district the way Bond did.”

Smith said the criteria he developed for the search — a process that involved canvassing the whole Coupeville community for input — focused primarily on continuity and progress.

Traits listed

for new leader

“We want to build on and augment and enhance the programs that have been established during the last six years,” Smith said on Friday. He said that other traits being sought in the next superintendent are strong personal values, a focus on character education, good financial management skills and an administrator who can “tend to the whole child, not just the WASL scores, though,” Smith added, “those are important.”

Howard, as well as the rest of the school board, hopes to have many of their questions answered next week, as the finalists are brought into the community for some friendly though intense scrutiny.

The district announced Wednesday that each finalists is scheduled to appear at a separate public forum this coming week. The meetings, slated for consecutive evenings Tuesday through Thursday, will run 90-minutes. These events will offer a chance for community members to converse with candidates, ask questions and make suggestions prior to the school board’s final decision.

Prior to each of these meetings, the school board will interview candidates for about an hour. Howard said the whole process of interviewing and then observing the finalists interact with the community will be important for the board to “take in and really absorb.”

After this, Howard said, the board will convene on Thursday to consider the results of the interview. At this time they will make a decision: to offer one of the finalist the job, or “to do some road trip to find out some more.”

The announcement of who will be Coupeville’s new superintendent is planned tentatively for May 6.

Both Howard and Smith indicated that the public forums given by the finalists are perhaps the crucial piece in finding out who might be best suited to filling the special needs of the Coupeville district.

Three days a

‘real crucible’

“We’re going to learn stuff that we may not expect to be able to learn,” Howard said of the forums. “Sometimes it’s about chemistry and intangible things about the way people interact with each other. It’s a real crucible, those three days.”

Because of such “intangibles,” Howard said, he can’t say for sure whether the process will wrap up as expected. “That’s one reason that I hesitate to predict with confidence that at the end of the day on May 2nd that we will be ready to make a decision,” he said.

Myhr is up first on Tuesday, followed by Vanikiotis on Wednesday and Brannam on Thursday. The meetings will run from 7-8:30 p.m.

On paper at least, there are striking similarities — or, depending on your view, consistencies — among the candidates, not least of which is that all three either have or will have received their Superintendent Certification from Seattle Pacific University: Myhr in 2001, and both Brannam and Vanikiotis in 2002.

Also, the finalists are long on experience serving in administrative capacities in Northwest region schools. For instance, their resumes in toto represent experience in nine different school districts around the state, from Ferndale to Issaquah. They have all taught secondary education courses, served as school principals and spent the better part of their careers in Washington state.

Brannam is

from Anacortes

Brannam is currently serving as Director of Learning, Instruction and Staff Development for the Anacortes School District, a job he has held since 1998. He has also been an administrator for the Bremerton School District and Green River Community College. Before moving to Washington, Brannam held administrative positions in public schools in both Ohio and Idaho. He received his doctorate from Ohio State University.

Myhr leads

Elma schools

Myhr has been superintendent of the Elma School District since 1999. Before that, he was principal of Elma High School, starting in 1995 and serving concurrently as super for the 1999-2000 school year. He was an English teacher at different Washington state high schools early in his career; from 1985-86, he was an exchange teacher in Sichuan Province, People’s Republic of China. Myhr earned his bachelor’s degree as well as a masters in education at Pacific Lutheran University.

Vanikiotis works

at Northshore

Since 1996, Vanikiotis has been the Executive Director of Secondary Education for the Northshore School District, where he also served as acting superintendent in the superintendent’s absence. He was a high school principal in Carnation for nearly a decade before that, having transferred from the Filer, Idaho school district in 1988.

Howard said the search process has been an intense one, especially as the board is also dealing with what Howard indicated as the “insidious effects” of the recent cuts in the state education budget. He added that the coming week should prove the busiest yet.

“We don’t have a lot of margin for shilly-shallying around,” Howard said. “We have to do our very best to synthesize and understand what we’re learning” about the finalists.

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