Steamboat superintendent candidates ready for the spotlight
School board members, public will interview 4 candidates Friday
June 15, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Tempted by small-town charm, an outdoor lifestyle, and the opportunity to lead Steamboat Spring's school district, four educators will meet the public Friday during a series of superintendent finalists interviews at The Steamboat Grand.
Rosanne Fulton, Michelle Johnstone, Bradley Meeks and Lance Villers will rotate between interviews with the School Board and two subcommittees of district faculty and staff members, students, parents and community members. The interviews are open to the public and will follow a Thursday night dinner with the board and the finalists.
The candidates include two current superintendents, an elementary school principal, and an assistant superintendent. All hope to replace outgoing Superintendent Shalee Cunningham, who is leaving Steamboat to become superintendent of the Novato Unified School District in Marin County, Calif.
Lance Villers, 47, left the University of Southern Colorado with a degree in computer science but found he wasn't enjoying his first job as a software engineer.
"I hated it," Villers said. "I didn't feel like I was making a difference."
Villers then began his career as an educator when he accepted his first teaching position in Wyoming in 1989. He earned his master's of education from Liberty University before being named to his current position as superintendent of the Custer County School District in Westcliffe. The father of three also served as a middle school math teacher and a secondary principal in Westcliffe. Having held the top job at his 500-student district for five years, he said he's ready to move to Steamboat.
"Professionally, I'm ready for a challenge," Villers said. "Steamboat's a bigger district, a bigger town. More than anything, I'm ready for the challenge of trying something new."
During his tenure as superintendent, Villers said his district has made Advanced Placement classes available to all high school students and initiated an online credit recovery program for students struggling to keep up with the curriculum.
Rosanne Fulton is the assistant superintendent of the 30,000-student Tacoma School District in Washington. She said she wants to move back to Colorado to assume a new level of leadership and become a "vibrant member of the community."
"Steamboat has the potential to be a world-class school district — it already is," Fulton said. "I'm hoping we can build on things that are already successful here."
Fulton, 53, is a mother of two college-aged children and has previously served as a teacher in residence at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, the executive director of curriculum and instruction at Denver Public Schools, a principal in the Mapleton Public School District, and a director of schools in the Douglas County School District. She said her experience that includes retooling and improving curriculum for students would help her manage a school district.
"I love the broad base of experience I've had because I've watched and worked with all kinds of different leaders," she said. "With my experience, I feel poised to be able to help out in Steamboat."
Fulton said her initial focus as a superintendent would be to get to know her coworkers and identify areas that are in need of improvement. Fulton owns a home in Walden with her husband, Robert, an avid fisherman.
During his eight-year tenure as a superintendent in Farmington, Minn., Bradley Meeks oversaw the passage of a $111.8 million bond package in 2005 that was used to construct a new high school and elementary school in his growing district.
The father of four said his experience managing both a large, 6,400-student district in Farmington, as well as a smaller district in Aberdeen, S.D., would help him step into a leadership role in Steamboat.
"I've worked well with the staff whether they're in larger districts or smaller districts," he said. "The districts I've been in have improved, and the other thing I bring with my experience is stability."
Meeks, 50, hopes to relocate to Steamboat after resigning from his position as superintendent of the Farmington Area Public Schools in February because of differences of opinion with members of his school board. His interim role with the district officially ends Aug. 31.
"We had a new board come on in January, and they were looking at a different direction," he said. "I thought it was the most professional thing to do and the best decision for my family."
Meeks and his wife regularly attend Minnesota Twins games, and he said having four children has allowed him to remain an active volunteer at school events during his career.
Finalist Michelle Johnstone became an educator after serving as a "volunteer mom" during her eldest daughter's early school days.
"In my career, I've made increasing parent involvement in our schools a top priority," said Johnstone, a principal at Spangler Elementary School in Longmont. "We can't educate kids by ourselves, it's a community effort."
Johnstone, 48, has previously served as a fifth-grade bilingual teacher in Commerce City and Longmont, and a principal of an elementary school in Greeley. She said she's seeking the superintendent position to step into a larger leadership role.
"When we get into the position of superintendent, we have the opportunity to do great things for our kids," she said. "I'm very excited about the opportunity."
The second-generation Coloradan has never been to Steamboat, but said she's anxious to visit the community this week. The mother of six received her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Northern Colorado in 2010.
— To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email firstname.lastname@example.org