The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

New super search nearing completion

Candidates for top administrator will be made public in coming days


A shortlist of candidates hoping to be the next superintendent for Valdez City Schools was published late Tuesday morning. The list was revised Wednesday, after one candidate name, Ron Saari, current superintendent of the Black Falls School District in Wisconsin, was withdrawn.

The current three candidates, in random order, are Les McCormick, a principal from the Chatham School District in Angoon, Lisa Stroh, superintendent of the Blaine County schools in Montana, and Steven Gast, the current interim superintendent and director of personnel and special programs in Nome.

Timi Tullis of the Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) said 11 candidates had applied for the position.

The board of education for Valdez City Schools met behind closed doors in executive session before and after Monday night’s regular school board meeting to sort through the applications in hopes of paring down the pool to a shortlist of three candidates.

The board hired AASB to aid in its search after the outgoing superintendent, Jacob Jensen, announced he would not seek a renewal of his contract when his three-year tenure expires at the end of June.

AASB is also the organization that brought Jensen to Valdez, and also introduced him as a candidate to the Lower Kuskokwim School District, where he has accepted the position as its new superintendent.

Tullis said candidates are asked if they intend to accept the position with the district if it is offered before an actual invitation is extended.

The board also approved a draft schedule of activities it hopes to implement when the shortlist of candidates are invited to Valdez to tour the schools and community next week.

The candidates are slated to individually tour all three schools and meet the principals this Wednesday morning, before having lunch with the student government at Valdez High School. A group tour of district facilities and familiarization with its technology will follow.

Open time with district staff and a community forum – which is open to the public – will be held from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. at Valdez High School.

“This would not be like “Meet the Candidates” night,” board member Dr. Kathy Todd said during the meeting. She said personal questions for the candidates will be off-limits.

Candidates will interview individually with the board beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. Tullis is slated to sit in on the interviews, but not actively participate. The interview between the board and the candidates are open to the public but are not open to public questioning.

“We’re doing the dialogue there,” board president Steve Brockman said in a brief interview Tuesday morning, clarifying often confusing and contradictory statements made during Monday night’s meeting.

“During the interview, people won’t be able to ask their own questions,” Todd said.

The board will meet for executive session at 2:30 p.m., Thursday afternoon, with a potential board action on an appointment to follow.

At Monday night’s meeting, the board said it will not hire a new superintendent unless members are confident the new administrator is a good fit for the district.

After Monday night’s meeting, board members said qualified acting-superintendents had expressed interest in heading the district if a suitable candidate is not found.

Brief bios of each candidate on the shortlist were included in the press release and are reprinted below:

Tony Gorman photo

Jacob Jensen, right, conferred with Steve Brockman, president of the Valdez board of education, during a March school board meeting.

Les McCormick – Currently the Principal and Director of Special Education and Athletic Director for Chatham School District in Angoon, Alaska. Previously He was the Superintendent in Skagway, Alaska. Mr. McCormick holds and M. Ed in Educational Leadership from University of Idaho and did his undergraduate work in both University of AK Southeast and Boise State University.

Steven Gast: Currently the Nome interim superintendent and director of personnel and special programs. He was the principal of the Nome Beltz Jr./Sr. High School 2010 – 2012. Mr. Gast has also worked as a principal and district executive director in Mansfield, and Brownwood, Texas. He holds a Masters in Education from Tarleton State University in Texas and a B.S. in Education/Sociology from the University of Wisconsin.

Lisa Stroh – Currently the superintendent of Blaine County in Montana. She was a professor of education at Fort Belknap College prior to being elected county superintendent. Dr. Stroh also has worked as a principal in Montana and Alaska. She holds an Ed.D. in Administration, Administrators Endorsement, and a M.Ed in Special Education from Montana State University.


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