Major changes are expected to take place in the Selah School District within days. Friday, April 15, the district is expected to announce its new superintendent, chosen from a pool of three final candidates who will meet with groups of staff and community members this week.
The road to the last individuals was long.
The selection process, led by the Selah School Board, was complex and difficult, according to school board chair Jeff Hartwick.
In fact, Hartwick describes the selection of a new superintendent as “a school board’s greatest responsibility.”
The need for a new school district leader arose in December, when Superintendent Shane Backlund announced he would transition to a new regional role as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services District 105. Backlund serves as the head of the district. school for 10 years, with a collective of 21 working in posts in the Selah School District.
“We’re replacing a 21-year-old district manager who has been with Selah for a long, long time and has done an incredible job,” Hartwick said. “We are well aware that we have to find a new leader who replaces someone respected, well thought out.”
In February, the school board launched the search by hiring Northwest Leadership Associates, a search agency that helps school districts find and attract superintendent candidates while offering guidance for the hiring process.
“They kind of helped us understand the whole process and were there, if you will, the whole time,” Hartwick said.
The research agency’s first recommendation was for the school board to gather feedback and opinions from Selah residents. Through an online survey accessible to the entire community, the school board gained valuable insight into what its constituents expected of the new leader.
“One of the biggest things that stood out was that they were looking for someone who already had experience as a school superintendent or administrator,” Hartwick said.
In addition, focus groups were held with students and district staff. From nutrition staff to school administrators, as many people as possible were represented and had the opportunity to share their feedback.
Using information gathered from the survey and focus groups, a job description was written and posted to candidates worldwide through Northwest Leadership Associates.
“Of the 15 applicants we received, we selected six because of their extensive educational experience and their qualifications to continue to lead the Selah School District with great strength and the traditions for which Selah is known,” said said Hartwick.
The school board conducted preliminary interviews with these six semi-finalists on March 28 and 29, then narrowed down the nominees to three people who are visiting the school district for separate public forums this week.
Zillah Deputy Superintendent Justin Irion will visit on Tuesday, April 12, former Sunnyside Superintendent Kevin McKay will visit on Wednesday, April 13, and Troy Tornow, assistant superintendent of the 123 Educational Services District, will visit on ThursdayApril 14. Public community forums will be held at 6 p.m. each day at Selah Middle School.
After the final interviews, the school board should announce its choice on FridayApril 15. Full details of the process are posted on the school district’s website at www.selahschools.org.
Hartwick is confident that whichever candidate is chosen, the district will be in good hands.
“We know that these candidates are all very capable. And so we’re looking for that candidate who can come to Selah, who can become a Viking quickly, and continue the great things that are happening here in our district.
Natalie Keller is a junior at Selah High School.