Top Ennis superintendent candidate withdraws from consideration

The Ennis School Board will meet Wednesday evening to discuss their next move in the search for a new superintendent after the top candidate interviewed during a public forum Monday declined the job offer and withdrew her name from consideration for the position on Tuesday.

Following a lengthy and rigorous interview meeting where the board talked to three candidates, the board voted to offer a two-year contract to Renee Rasmussen late Monday night. Rasmussen is currently the superintendent in Wibaux.

Joe Brott, Director of Policy Services for the Montana School Boards Association, has assisted the board through the entire superintendent search. Brott called Rasmussen immediately following Monday night’s meeting, but confirmed Tuesday afternoon that she had withdrawn from consideration for various reasons, none of which had anything to do with the Ennis School District.

The district relied on MTSBA in selecting candidates for the superintendent position, and Brott played a significant role in the process of checking references and surveying students, faculty and administration about their desires for a new superintendent. Current superintendent Doug Walsh will retire June 30.

The school board must now decide whether to re-open the position, look further into the pool of 16 candidates or discuss offering the job to one of the other two candidates interviewed on Monday. But no one will know for sure what the next step is until Wednesday’s meeting.

“Those really are the options they probably will be looking at tomorrow night,” Brott said on Tuesday. “We’ll see where that discussion leads.”

The superintendent position has not been offered to the next candidate because the board made no commitment to do so following Monday night’s decision to offer the job to Rasmussen.

The other two candidates were Tim Norbeck, principal at Butte Central Catholic High School, and Three Forks High School principal Thom Peck. Each candidate was asked a series of 20 questions by the board, ranging from their experience with developing a budget and curriculum to examples of effective communication with their respective school boards and advisory councils.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to respond to the questions in a manner that illustrated their personality as well as their approach to running the Ennis school district. Each board member kept notes and members of the audience were offered evaluation forms to rate the candidates responses. The categories for evaluation included Professionalism/General Demeanor, Communication Skills, Leadership Qualities, Knowledge of Key Areas such as the budget, curriculum and personnel and Overall Strengths and Weaknesses. Ratings for each of the categories were Outstanding, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

After the individual interviews the audience was given the opportunity to comment on the candidates. One member of the public said the Ennis district needs someone who displays strong leadership characteristics, while another suggested strong consideration should be given to candidates with experience in working with the legislature and state educational offices.

Elementary school principal Brian Hilton emphasized the importance of the superintendent’s role as the lead public relations position for the district.

After polling the board, chairman Marc Glines said that the top priorities in choosing the right candidate appeared to be leadership, communication skills, focusing on what’s best for the kids, and budget/curriculum development.

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday evening to discuss their next course of action in hiring a district superintendent and conduct their regular monthly business.

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