Andy Carlson will be asked to enter into negotiations to be the new superintendent of Havre Public Schools. "I have a lot of pride in being a part of Havre Public Schools," Carlson said this morning. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity." "After thought, it seems that Mr. Carlson has performed extremely well over the last several months," trustee Curtis Smeby said after making a motion to enter into negotiations with Carlson. Already serving as interim superintendent, Carlson has stepped up to the plate and is a known quantity, Smeby said. Carlson was appointed interim superintendent in January after the resignation of Dave Mahon. Both applicants are "very qualified," board Chairperson Shad Huston said. "They were very well received equally" by the staff, community and the board, he added. "I truly believe that Andy will do a great job taking over as permanent superintendent." Carlson received an undergraduate degree from Montana State University- Northern before completing work on a graduate degree in educational leadership from the University of Montana. He taught at Kremlin-Gildford schools before taking the curriculum assessment specialist position with the Havre district 10 years ago. In 2007, he became the director of education, the position he has worked in until he was appointed as interim superintendent. He is working to earn a superintendent endorsement from UM and plans to complete work on it over the summer, he said. Currently, he holds a Class 5 alternative license for superintendent. "I'm not in a unique position," he said, because of a smaller pool of employees in the state as a whole. Initially, Carlson, amid speculation that he would apply for the full-time superintendent's position, was undecided if he would apply for the position or not. "For me, my family comes first ... ," he said. "It's difficult for a spouse, and it's difficult for kids." He has felt more connected to the schools and students since taking the interim position, he said. "And to me, I like that part. When you weigh everything out, I would really like to give this a chance," he said, adding that he's hopeful that a suitable agreement will be reached. It's difficult to think about leaving for career advancement down the road, he said. "I want my kids in the school system," he said. "And I feel good sending my kids to school every day, and I like what's happening for them. And that, to me, is the greatest thing that a parent can have." Trustees asked both Carlson and Bob Connors, the junior high school principal and assistant high school principal for Stevensville schools in Ravalli County, the same 18 questions before convening in executive session with each. Carlson responses Working on the vision of where the district wants to go is an important aspect of the superintendent's job, said Carlson. Being public with that vision also is important, he said, even though that can be difficult. "You kind of have this vision that you can have an open door and that goes away quickly" because of the vast number of people who want to speak with the superintendent, he said about the importance of being available to the public. He has to weigh what's going on overall with what the issue is when time is tight, he said, and if the issue involves a child, it always comes first. "People always need a response," he said, adding that people need to know that he hears their concerns. His vision of public education is that everything for every child should be done. "I think that's what we try to do every day," he said, adding that the district should constantly be looking at what it does for students. "I think that's what our district would hold itself to," he said. "We have to have a singular purpose in this district," he said, calling a vision "essential." His role in that vision is being a leader and involving the community to get input concerning what things its members want to see happen in the district. "I'm genuine and care about people," Carlson said about his strengths as both an educator and a person, adding that it's difficult for him to separate being a person and an educator. "It's hard to disappoint people," he said. That's why it's important that decision are well-thought-out, he said. People aren't always going to agree, he said, and they haven't since he's been at the helm, even. He has to use professionalism to separate the job from the person, he said. "And that's a big part of what the superintendent's job is," he said. "You approach each day with a good attitude," he said. It comes down to whether he can get up and go in to work every day, he said. The district has solid policies, he said, which is a good thing. Listening to one side of a story before implementing policy is not a solid practice, though, he said. "Part of policy is hearing both sides of a story ... ," he said. Issues such as the budget are difficult to understand, and people need to understand why and how priorities are set for it, he said. That means going to people and discussing issues with them. "There isn't one program that isn't valuable for one kid," he said. That makes decisions concerning programs tough ones to make, he added. Impediments to instructional program changes include time and resources, he said. "I know that there's only so much time," he said. Also, people need to be professionally trained to implement programs, he said. Budget-cutting decisions need to well-thought-out, he said. Things like staff reductions have wide implications. "It damages programs for kids," he said. "You have to weigh everything within the district" and speak with multiple stake holders before making decisions, he said. No cause must be given for letting a non-tenured teacher go, he said. If a decision to let an employee go meets with opposition from a trustee, the decision can be pulled from the unanimous consent agenda and the board can go into executive session, he said. The decision to fire someone is a hefty one to make because of the implications it has on the person, like removing his livelihood, Carlson said. "And so it's not something you do lightly," he said. Communication is important when garnering public support for mill levies and bond issues, he said. "It's a yearlong process," he said. The process involves communicating to the community the things that the schools do, like programs for students and how well facilities are maintained, he said. Today, technology is integral to the district's operations when 10 years ago, cutting-edge training was on how to attach files to e-mails, Carlson said. "We cannot teach our reading programs without technology," he said. Connors responses Connors also spoke of the importance of communication during his interview. He earned his superintendent's endorsement from UM in 2006 and has worked worked in Butte Central Catholic Schools, Choteau Public Schools and Laurel Public Schools before begining work at Stevensville. The best use of his time, Connors said, is to communicate the board's position on issues to the community. His expectation is not to be blind sided by anything, he said. "I need to make sure I know what's going on," he said. "We need to be able to educate all the kids," Connors said about what his vision of public education is. The district should be able to educate the full spectrum of students, from at-risk students to advanced students. "And not feel bad about admitting that we can do that," he said. It's a vision of public education that he said he thinks would work with Havre Public schools, but he hesitated to make a blanket statement that it would absolutely work. There would be changes, he said. "We need to make sure something is broken before we fix that," he said. Disagreements are inevitable, he said. To offset some of those, "you have to work to everybody's strengths." People can disagree without being disagreeable, he added. The vision of the district needs to be clear, as well as personalized, to encourage community buy-in, he said. A strength of his as an educator is listening to different sides of issues and taking emotional factors out of it before making a decision, he said. As a person, he doesn't hold grudges, he said. "Get it straightened out and move on," he said. District policies should be applied consistently even though every situation is unique, he said. "It's the procedures that get everybody screwed up," he said. People want to meet with the superintendent, but time-wise, that can be difficult. "You need to make sure that you get out to your morning clubs," he said. The meetings would allow him to speak with a large number of people in a reasonable amount of time and get out the message of good things happening in the district. All the information needs to be on the table before decisions are made, he said. As superintendent, being open to the community on issues like the budget and cuts to it is important, he said. "You have to be fiscally responsible to the community," he said. Making a personal connection between residents and the district helps people be more understanding of tough decisions like staff and program reductions that the district might have to make. If budget cuts dictate staff reductions, teachers should know in September or October that such an action is a possibility, he said. As far as mill levy and bond levy decisions are concerned, communication is paramount, Connors said. "You need to make sure you understand the temperature of the community," he said. Principals and teachers should give their recommendations about what funding they need during the budgeting process, he said. Sometimes staff reductions meet with resistance from community members, students and even trustees. The reality is that for a non-tenured teacher, no specific reason must be given when he is let go. Saying that there is a "change" in the direction of a program or the district is adequate, Connors said. When it comes to letting a tenured employee go, the process is more difficult, he said. The proper history and documentation must be in a row before the decision is made, he said. Money and human factors are impediments to change in instructional programs, he said. It took three years to implement a change in the alternative program in one of Stevensville's schools, he said, because no money was available. Stimulus dollars were used to implement the program. It takes trained professionals to implement programs, he said, which takes professional development. "Love it," Connors said about technology in schools, adding that educators can either take a reactive approach and get dragged by the collar, or can take a proactive approach. The board might take action to formally appoint Carlson at the Tuesday, May 11, meeting if an agreement is reached.
Carlson top choice for superintendent
Published: Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
Click Here To See More Stories Like This