Education: LAPS tabs 4 candidates for superintendent post

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By Carol A. Clark

Four candidates made the short list out of 33 who applied to become the new Los Alamos Public Schools superintendent.

The finalists include John A Davis, Ed.D., of Cumberland Center, Maine, Walter G. Gibson of Los Lunas, N.M., Stephen R. Rowley, Ph.D., of Los Gatos, Calif., and Eugene J. Schmidt, Ph.D., of Bridgeport, Wash.

The Board of Education made the announcement Tuesday saying the finalists represent many years of experience in the classroom and in the administration of schools and school districts across the United States.

Immediate past president Steve Girrens has remained on the superintendent search committee.

“We have four high quality candidates and I’m excited and optimistic,” Girrens said. “The public will have an opportunity to meet each of them when they come to town for final interviews and to make their presentations to the community.”

A series of activities are planned for the four finalists when they visit Los Alamos for three days beginning April 16.

“This is the final step of the interview process and begins on Thursday afternoon (April 16) with a briefing by key district level administrators on the programs, facilities, finances and people, which are part of the school community,” said Superintendent Mary McLeod who retires in July. “Thursday night the candidates and their spouses and the school board’s search committee and spouses will be hosted at a dinner at the home of Board President Joan Ahlers and her husband Gary.”

The finalists begin early April 17 with a breakfast for the candidates and representatives from the school and the community. They will spend the remainder of the day touring individual school sites.

The community is invited and encouraged to meet the candidates from 5-7 p.m., that evening in the Los Alamos High School Speech Theater.

“Each finalist will give a formal presentation followed by a question and answer session,” McLeod said. “Then following the presentations at 7 p.m., the community is invited to attend a reception with food and beverages in the high school lobby.”

Feedback cards will be provided for community members to submit their thoughts and endorsements of the finalists.

Individual interviews are scheduled with each finalist Saturday and a decision announcing the new Superintendent will follow shortly thereafter, McLeod said.


Superintendent post finalists

NOTE: All information on the superintendent finalists was furnished by Los Alamos Public Schools.

John A Davis, Ed.D., earned a B.A. from Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, Alabama in history and English; M.A., Ed.M., and an Ed.D., from Teachers College, Columbia University in educational administration.

Davis served as a teacher and a principal before becoming superintendent for the Sand Point City School District in Alaska. He also was superintendent in Bristol, N.H. and for the Bering Strait School District in Alaska.

Davis currently serves as an educational consultant in program development and analysis, staff training and professional development.

He has been involved in a significant and unique reform effort, which resulted in increased student achievement by teaching all children to high standards. Davis also was instrumental in developing a regional vocational program to increase awareness of career opportunities.

He has experience in construction, educational evaluation and advocacy and has created new programs, new schools, and new school districts.

Walter G. Gibson completed a B.A., an M.A. from the University of Rhode Island. He earned a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Secondary Administration from Rhode Island College and has completed Doctoral Coursework in Educational Leadership from the University of Connecticut.

Gibson has served as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. He has been superintendent for Exeter – West Greenwich Regional School District, Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, Md., and Los Lunas Schools in New Mexico. Gibson has experience in meeting the complex challenges of increasing student achievement with students from both low and high socio-economic backgrounds.

He has tripled the Advanced Placement participation of students in Los Lunas and has introduced an International Baccalaureate Program, a Cambridge Diploma Program and a Math and Science Magnet Program in three different high schools in the U.S.

Gibson sees the superintendency as a position of community leadership and engagement while remaining rooted in the daily practices of each and every classroom across the district.

Stephen R. Rowley, Ph.D., earned a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, teacher certification from the University of Washington, a Ph.D. and an Ed.S. from Stanford University.

Rowley has served as a teacher, elementary principal and assistant superintendent in California and Washington State. He was superintendent for the Bainbridge Island School District in Washington and for the Fremont Union High School District in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Rowley has led two major district wide strategic planning efforts, which established ambitious long-range goals and robust district wide academic improvement initiatives. Additionally, Rowley has experience in all phases of facilities development, in budget and finance. He works collaboratively with employees and enjoys being visible and accessible in the schools and the community.

Eugene J. Schmidt, Ph.D. earned a B.A. from Washington State University, an M.Ed. from Central Washington University, a Superintendent’s Credential and a Ph.D. from Washington State University.

Schmidt has experience as a middle and high school principal. He was superintendent of White Pass School District and the Bridgeport School District in Washington State.

Schmidt believes in collaborative leadership and has utilized this approach to turn a struggling school system into one of the best. Bridgeport’s increased academic performance lead to two National Title I Distinguished School Awards.

The collaborative work with the Bridgeport School Board is demonstrated through the 2008 Washington State School Director’s Association Small School Board of the Year award.

Schmidt is an active member of his community and is equally as committed to the arts as he is to athletics, as demonstrated in his work in Community Theater and his success as coach, having been named a Washington State Coach of the Year.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.