3 school chief finalists chosen

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The Steamboat Springs Board of Education selected three finalists for its now-vacant superintendent position in an executive session Friday.

Ron Ciranna of Michigan, Donna Howell of Texas and Wayne Johnson of Wisconsin were notified of their selection Friday by Ray and Associates, the search firm hired by the School Board to aid in its search for the replacement of superintendent Cyndy Simms.

The board narrowed the pool from five semifinalists to three finalists with the help of a search group made up of community stakeholders.

"We think they're all quality candidates," School Board President Paul Fisher said. "We think the candidates do match the criteria for which we were looking."

The five semifinalists visited Steamboat Springs for interviews Wednesday and Thursday. Each candidate was interviewed for one hour by the search group and for two hours by the School Board.

Millie Beall, a longtime Routt County resident and former School Board president, gave the semifinalists and their spouses a private tour of Steamboat Springs.

Each candidate and his or her spouse -- if they attended -- also went to dinner with one or two School Board members for a more personal, informal interview, Fisher said.

The School Board met Thursday to discuss all five semifinalists.

In the executive session Friday, the School Board heard reactions to each candidate from all eight community stakeholders.

After the community members left the session, the School Board discussed the candidates and selected the finalists, Fisher said. The session lasted three hours.

Ray and Associates notified the finalists later in the afternoon.

Fisher said the School Board was happy with the selection of applicants that Ray and Associates provided.

"They have access to candidates that we'd never find," Fisher said. The assistance of the firm will cost the district $14,000 plus travel expenses, he said.

Ray and Associates was contacted by 116 people when the position was announced. Fifty-eight of those people completed written applications.

The firm eliminated 14 of the 58 because of inexperience or because they did not meet required criteria established by the School Board and search group.

After careful review of the remaining 44 applications, Ray and Associates whittled the field down to 11 candidates.

The firm then gave the School Board a list of those applicants. The School Board narrowed that list to five semifinalists June 16.

Now that the three finalists have been announced, the School Board is legally required to wait 14 days before announcing its final choice or signing any contracts.

"(The board) may have another meeting in that two-week period to rank and prioritize," Fisher said. Right now, the three finalists are not ranked in any order, he said.

Fisher said the School Board is grateful to the community board for their assistance in the long process of finding a new superintendent.

"They very thoughtfully and critically took their job seriously," Fisher said.

The community board was made up of four people with a direct involvement with Steamboat schools or the school district and four other community members "at large," Fisher said.

Finalist Johnson said he and his wife enjoy the outdoors and loved Steamboat Springs.

"What a fabulous place," he said.

Johnson just finished a contract with a school district in Wisconsin, and said he would love to be a part of the school district in Steamboat.

"They're doing wonderful things with children," he said. "Some of the things the district is facing I think I am well-suited to deal with."

Ciranna and Howell could not be reached at press time.

Simms announced her resignation in April and will leave Steamboat Springs July 1. She is taking a position as superintendent for the Mercer Island, Wash., School District.

-- To reach Erin Ragan call 871-4232

or e-mail intern@steamboatpilot.com

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