Steamboat Springs If contract negotiations are successful this week, Bradley Meeks, the superintendent of Farmington Area Public Schools in Minnesota, will be the Steamboat Springs School District’s next leader.
It took just 10 minutes Monday night for the Steamboat Springs School Board to unanimously identify Meeks as its top choice. Lance Villers, superintendent of the Custer County School District in Westcliffe, had been the other finalist.
“I had the feeling that (Meeks) was the first choice of everybody who participated in the interview process,” board member Lisa Brown said. “He received broad-based support from a wide array of people. I just feel he’s very well qualified to lead our district and he brings tremendous experience that will help us be stable as we move forward.”
The board interviewed Meeks and three other finalists last week at The Steamboat Grand, and named him one of their top two choices after consulting with other interview committees that included district staff members, parents and students.
During his eight-year tenure as a superintendent in Farmington, 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. He resigned from his position in February, citing differences of opinion with members of his school board.
The father of four said last week that his experience managing both the 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.”
That experience was cited by the board as it endorsed Meeks for the position.
“He’ll be able to come in and hit the ground running a little bit easier than our other finalists,” board President Robin Crossan said. “He has the experience of many more years.”
Board member Laura Anderson said it was Meeks’ confidence that convinced her he was the best choice for the job.
“I remember three years ago being in that interview room and asking (current Steamboat Superintendent Shalee Cunningham), ‘Why are you the best candidate?’ and she responded, ‘I know what you need,’” Anderson said. “She said it so confidently. That’s the confidence I felt with Brad Meeks, and I’m very confident he’s going to be the best candidate for the future.”
After being informed he was the district’s top choice for the job, Meeks said he was anxious to talk with board members and begin negotiating a contract.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to be able to come to Steamboat to work in the district,” he said. “During my visit last week, I sensed a lot of passion and commitment to the school district from the community. I also felt that even though the students there score well on tests, there are always ways to improve, and I’m certainly glad to help with that process.”
Meeks told the board during the interviews that one of his first actions as superintendent would be to arrange a board retreat. He also said increasing the district’s use of technology and finding additional sources of funding for its schools would be top priorities during his tenure.
Board members indicated that if negotiations with Meeks failed, they would be comfortable negotiating with Villers.
“I feel good supporting either candidate,” Crossan said.
She said the board intends to offer Meeks a one-year contract with the possibility of extending it. Board members Brian Kelly and Denise Connelly, who spearheaded the superintendent search, will begin negotiating a salary, benefits package and start date with Meeks this week, and if they are successful, the board will vote to approve and offer a contract to Meeks during a meeting on Monday.
“I thought the whole interview and selection process was very refreshing,” Kelly said. “When we put the different finalists in different rooms and asked them different questions, people were able to come to a general consensus for their top pick, which was pretty interesting.”
Other actions taken by the School Board on Monday:
■ The board postponed an action item that would have named Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman, district Finance Director Dale Mellor or Assistant Middle School Principal Jerry Buelter as the district’s temporary interim superintendent if Meeks is not able to start by July 1. Anne Muhme, the district’s human resources director, said that Meeks indicated last week that he would be able to start almost immediately after signing a contract.
— To reach Scott Franz, call 871-4210 or email ScottFranz@SteamboatToday.com