Carson City residents provide public comment to the Carson City School District Board of Trustees Tuesday night before they vote on the new superintendent.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.
The Carson City School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday selected Dr. John Goldhardt of Manchester, NH as superintendent effective July 1 and will begin contract negotiations for the position.
The board approved the selection in a split 4-3 vote after interviewing finalists Goldhardt, superintendent of Manchester School District in New Hampshire, and Andrew Feuling, current CCSD district fiscal services officer, in second-round interviews Tuesday morning, then reconvening for an evening session. Trustees then provided their rationales for making their selection before hearing public comment and making the final vote.
Trustees Joe Cacioppo, Lupe Ramirez and Richard Varner chose Goldhardt as the item began. Trustees Don Carine, Laurel Crossman and Mike Walker were in favor of Feuling. Trustee Stacie Wilke-McCulloch, who previously had recused herself from the search process, participated in Tuesday’s process and ultimately cast the tiebreaking vote in favor of Goldhardt but expressed difficulty deciding between the two.
The board directed Varner to begin negotiations within its previously approved salary range of $170,000 to $205,000, which had been discussed when the board gave guidance to its consultant, the Nevada Association of School Boards, to advertise the position in November.
Goldhardt and Feuling had provided their second interviews earlier in the day beginning at 8:15 a.m. Each candidate was asked to make a presentation on the topic, “Carson City School District is currently refreshing its Strategic Plan. Please present your understanding of the District’s Strategic Plan and identify the ways you may strengthen it.”
During his presentation, Goldhardt immediately addressed the “elephant in the room” regarding his recent resignation from Manchester as of Feb. 11 after committing to his superintendency for a longer term. The situation prompted questions from local community members about his commitment to the job.
He then outlined the changes contemporary students have experienced since the time he was in school and addressed what has been learned during the pandemic as well as the skills and collaboration needed to increase academic achievement. He identified improving reading proficiency and decreasing chronic absenteeism in looking at Nevada’s reports on Carson City, advocating for a comprehensive approach with staff, families and community members.
“It shouldn’t be done to the people,” Goldhardt said. “It should be something to be done with people. … The board of trustees, parents, community members, students, teachers, support staff, central office leadership and school leaders, support staff, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians. You get the voice of all. … None of us are as smart as all of us. We have to prepare students for their future.”
In his presentation, Feuling provided his suggestions for improving on the district’s strategic plan, outlining detailed modifications, benchmarks and values to help move Carson City’s schools forward.
“There clearly is room for improvement and there always will be,” Feuling said. “I would argue there is one glaring omission … there is a lot of use of the word ‘empower’ … however, there are places in the document … we should be using the world ‘ensure’ rather than empower.”
Feuling’s suggestion for students to take ownership of the plan offered opportunities to focus on English learners, the district’s need to address its transient population and staffing shortages while finding ways to overhaul or readdress certain language for its vision statement to make the plan more student-centered.
Tuesday’s evening meeting prompted a full crowd to provide public comment in person and online prior to the vote, the opinion of which also was split on the best candidate for superintendent. Parents, community members and district staff argued for or against Goldhardt, who largely was viewed as a “change agent” needed to bring a new perspective or to improve Carson City School District’s academic status and teacher fatigue after the pandemic.
Many argued for or against particular qualities either one held or lacked, such as prior experience in the role itself, abilities to maintain or build relationships in the Nevada Legislature or advocating for staff or student needs in the community at large.
Some argued hiring Goldhardt would allow the district to keep Feuling in his current position on staff and urged them to consider their choice based on the candidates’ interview performance.
“We need someone who’s going to make the hard decisions,” Jason Tingle, Carson City resident and father, said. “What we’re doing is not working. I would encourage you to think about that. I’m all about keeping people in the system, but we don’t need that right now. We need a change.”
Bordewich Bray Principal Cheryl Richetta felt Feuling’s assistance with her finance classes in the past was among one of the qualities that made him the best candidate for the job.
“He is vested in our district and wants what’s best for our students,” Richetta said. “He showed fantastic ideas of what needs to change. The things that have been said by community members that we are bottom of education are not true. There are great things happening in the district. …He wants to support everyone for the betterment of our students.”
Rebecca Rodina, a Carson High School English teacher who has worked in the district for more than 24 years, said the city’s family culture remains one of its best qualities and that the community should not allow complacency to rule its judgment in seeking a new superintendent.
“There is nothing wrong with new ideas and innovation,” she said. “The only things that feel broken are the teachers and students. The best fix for us is to put a teacher in charge who has a vested interest in us. I would like to hire a superintendent who isn’t waiting for retirement.”
The board provided final thoughts after in-person and online public comment closed.
Trustee Mike Walker apologized to the candidates for any unkind words that had been expressed throughout the interview process against them.
“We don’t know what happened in Mr. Goldhardt’s situation,” Walker said. “Those who do know AJ know he is a man of substance. That prompt we had given (regarding the strategic plan), that is what was provided. That was what was asked for. … I think they’re both men of character. I respected both of their presentations.”
Carson City’s search process lasted nearly six months and included the selection of hosting firm Nevada Association of School Boards as the school board’s consultant with executive director Dr. Debb Oliver leading the search. Approximately 10 candidates had been selected and narrowed down to six before Goldhardt and Feuling were chosen as the finalists.
Superintendent Richard Stokes previously announced he will be retiring in June.
Varner said after Tuesday’s meeting the next steps will be to negotiate Goldhardt’s contract in house with the district’s in-house legal counsel Ryan Russell.
“If we’re successful, he’ll come on board, and if not, we’ll have to reexamine the process,” Varner said.
He also expressed appreciation for community and staff involvement in recent months during the search.
“Their comments were very helpful,” he said. “We just appreciate everybody’s involvement and we hope they’ll continue to be involved. It was very valuable.”
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