Hayden After four years as superintendent of the Hayden School District, Mike Luppes said the end of this school year will be a good time to retire and spend more time with his family.
"I going to miss the kids, miss the staff, and at this point in time, my wife and I have no solid plans whatsoever," said Luppes, 53, who first entered the school district 21 years ago as a fourth-grade teacher.
With his retirement looming seven months away, Luppes is faced with the task of steering a superintendent search to find his successor. Although Luppes noted he would not be involved in the selection process, he will be active in assisting the search, a role he likened to a "tour guide."
"I'll be part of setting up the process and showing people around when they come to interview," he said.
The school district kick-started the superintendent search Tuesday by notifying every Colorado school district of the impending vacancy. School officials plan on posting the job opening on the Colorado Association of School Executives Web site today.
"We wanted to have this announced before Christmas break so if there were candidates out there, and if they had time away from their jobs, they could be filling out applications," he said. "And if they had some time off, they could come up here and see the area."
The Hayden School Board declined to hire a consulting firm to assist in the superintendent search. Luppes said a firm was unnecessary because school officials have expressed a desire to be active in finding a new chief executive officer.
"A lot of the things you pay for in those searches are things we really thought we wanted to be doing on our own, such as an application screening committee," he said. "With a superintendent search consultant, a lot of times they'll collect the applications and they'll say, 'These are the five candidates that best fit your needs.' A lot of that is what the staff and School Board really wants to be involved in."
Luppes said the decision was also fiscally driven.
"We were figuring that at a minimum we were probably looking at $12,000 to conduct the search with a consultant," he said. "That is a minimum, and I've heard of another school district that hasn't even started conducting interviews yet and they have spent $20,000."
Luppes said that school district is not Steamboat Springs, which will also soon begin a superintendent search.
District staff, administrators, the School Board and the community will all be invited to be part of Hayden's selection process, Luppes said.
"We are looking for an interview process where there will be time for the community to have time to ask the candidate questions and have some input," he said.
'A fantastic job'
The application period for the position ends Feb. 1, and Luppes said interviews are planned for the week of Feb. 25. The School Board hopes to approve a contract at its March 19 meeting. Superintendent duties are set to begin July 1.
Whoever fills Luppes' shoes will be faced with running a school district with a static budget, due to an enrollment count that decreased by nearly 130 students since 1998. The 447-student district has not cut academic or extracurricular activities in the past three years, but Luppes said further decreases in enrollment may force the district to do so.
The minimum salary for the superintendent position is advertised at $82,000 with a benefits package. In Steamboat Springs, interim superintendent Sandra Smyser is being paid $102,353 under her prorated contract. Her base salary is close to $145,000 when calculated over a full work year.
School Board President Brian Hoza said it will take someone special to accept the superintendent position, which he admits isn't as competitive financially as many other Colorado school districts.
"Certainly our priority would be someone to have some experience to contribute to our district, but we won't restrict ourselves because of the salary ranges that we will be able to compete in," he said. "But I'm confident we'll get someone who is a good fit for the size of community and district we are."
Hoza praised Luppes' service.
"He has done a fantastic job and he stepped into a difficult situation with our declining enrollment," he said. "But Mike has moved the district in some strong directions in the time he has been in the role. He's helped us stabilized some of our policies and procedures and helped develop some of our new response to intervention programs."
Luppes said retirement won't keep him away from kids for long. He expressed his desire to volunteer as a coach, and said he has no plans to leave Hayden.
"There is plenty of time to look into those things and the options are all over the place," he said. "There are things I still want to do with my life yet. My wife is starting this adventure as well and we need to be doing something. It's just a matter of what."