From the April Newsletter: Board picks top candidate for D51 superintendent post

The search for the next superintendent of School District 51 has narrowed to a single choice.

District 51 School Board members Doug Levinson, Greg Mikolai, Tom Parrish, and Paul Pitton voted unanimously Thursday, April 13, 2017, to begin contract negotiations with Ken Haptonstall pending further background checks and reference checks. The board hopes to make an official hire on or before May 1.

Dr. Haptonstall has served as superintendent of schools in Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute since 2009. He previously served as assistant superintendent in Garfield 16 from 2007 to 2008, became assistant principal of Fruita Middle School in 1999 before taking over as the school’s principal in 2000, and taught computer science at East Middle School from 1993 to 1999.

“He brings the strengths of managing a district, passion for the job, the experience of running a system and working with boards. All of the criteria that when we talked a month-plus ago about what were essentials that we were looking for in a superintendent, I think are encapsulated with Ken,” District 51 School Board member Doug Levinson said. “We brought some really solid people here, so it’s more being fortunate to pick one strong (finalist) among other strong ones.”

The search for the next superintendent of District 51 began shortly after current District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz announced in January that he plans to retire June 30, 2017. Mr. Schultz has worked in School District 51 for 35 years, starting out as a teacher in 1982, and has served as superintendent since July 2009.

The D51 School Board members immediately got to work creating a list of necessary and preferred qualities for the next superintendent, including a master’s degree or higher, a minimum of five years’ experience leading a complex organization, and public education experience.

Thirty-nine people applied for the job. The board selected six of those applicants to interview via video-conference. Those six candidates were:

  • Pamela Brown – Chief of Schools for Fontana Unified School District in Fontana, California
  • James Feil – Former President of Urban Day School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Ken Haptonstall – Superintendent of Schools for Garfield County School District 16, Parachute, Colorado
  • Phil Onofrio – Chief Operating Officer for Mesa County Valley School District 51, Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Carrie Stephenson – Executive Director of Schools/Area Superintendent for Douglas County School District, Castle Rock, Colorado
  • John Williams – Private attorney and Mesa County Valley School District 51 School Board President, Grand Junction

After the video-conference interviews, the board selected four finalists to interview in person: Dr. Haptonstall, Mr. Onofrio, Ms. Stephenson, and Mr. Williams. The four finalists interviewed with community groups and the board April 10-11, 2017, and participated in a public Meet and Greet April 10.

The board will have the final say in who is hired as the next superintendent. But they haven’t made decisions during the search without keeping students, parents, staff, teachers, and the community in mind.

A January community survey found Grand Valley residents preferred a candidate with school leadership and teaching experience and an interest in current educational best practices and Performance Based Learning. Board members kept that in mind during this process, and also said comment cards and feedback from the Meet and Greet and community interviews helped them make this extremely important decision.