Three finalists vying to become Utah's next schools boss
Three finalists have been named as candidates to replace retiring State Superintendent Larry Shumway as Utah's top education official, the State Board of Education announced on Wednesday.
Gregory A. Hudnall of Provo, an associate superintendent for student services in the Provo School District; Martell Menlove of Garland, deputy Utah state superintendent; and Michael Sentance of Concord, Mass., president of education reform strategies at private company The Tribal Group, will be interviewed on Monday for the position.
Shumway announced his retirement last month after three years on the job, saying it was the right time to leave. His retirement is effective Jan. 1, capping off 33 years in public education.
Finalists were picked after a round of interviews with several semifinalist candidates, according to a news release. Those involved in selecting the finalists came from the State Board of Education, the Governor's Office and included lawmakers, public education groups, superintendents, local school boards, principals, teachers, parents, business and commerce groups and other groups, the news release states.
Candidates will be interviewed by the State Board of Education in a public meeting on Monday at 1 p.m. The board will then go into a closed session to continue interviewing the candidates. The board intends to announced its decision after interviews on Monday, the news release states.
The announcement of finalists follows criticism from four Republican legislators who last month said the process used by the state school board to select a new state superintendent "flies in the face of representative government."
State Sens. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Margaret Dayton, R-Orem; state Reps. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, issued a joint statement accusing the 15-member, elected State Board of Education of rushing the selection process. That rush, according to the statement, could lead to fewer qualified candidates. It also notes that by selecting someone in October, new board members elected in November will have no say in the decision.
Stephenson said Wednesday that he has heard "good things" about the finalists' qualifications, but remains disturbed by what he sees as a quick replacement for Shumway.
"I'm extremely concerned about the timing. If we luck out and get a really good superintendent, maybe that will be forgotten," Stephenson said referring to his beliefs of a rushed process. He criticized the state board for being more concerned about getting a new superintendent in place than with implementing technology in schools with funding recently received from the legislature.
"It's no way to run a selection process in my opinion," said Stephenson. "I wish they were as urgent about getting students and teachers the tools they need when the legislature has provided the funding as they are about replacing the superintendent."
Dayton, who was selected to be in one of four groups to vet semifinalists for the superintendent job earlier this week, echoed Stephenson's concerns about the process. She said that it's not uncommon for universities to take 6 months to a year to fullfill a university president job a position that doesn't deal with as high of a public budget as that of the state superintendent.
She questioned how many applicants even had a chance to apply for the job in the two-week window in which it was posted.
"I still have my same concerns about the rushed nature of the process. I feel like there are people in the state office of education who could do an adequate job of serving as interim superintendent ... while a more meaningful process takes place, allowing for research," Dayton said.
The head of the state school board, Debra Roberts, previously responded to lawmakers' criticism by saying the process to select a new superintendent is the same process that's been used in the past a method that allows education leaders to find the best candidate from the widest pool possible before the start of the next legislative session.
Roberts said it's vital a new superintendent be ready by the next legislative session because of the board's constitutional partnership with the Legislature. Those newly elected to the board in November won't even take their seats until January, she said.
"Those weeks at the Legislature are some of the most important weeks during the year to honor that partnership," Roberts said last month. "We really need our CEO to be in place and be prepared to have the contacts and influence necessary to be on the Hill to have that kind of partnership."
The superintendent position was advertised through four or five national groups, as well as locally. Potential candidates submitted applications, after which a selection committee composed of board members examined applications and narrowed the pool for preliminary interviews.
A closer look at the candidates
Gregory A. Hudnall • Hudnall is currently the associate superintendent at Provo School District where he has worked for 29 years. Before that he worked as an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University, a principal for Provo District and an online foreign language school. He's a member of an international and transregional accreditation committee, which takes him to places all over the world like Saudi Arabia.
He grew up in a small farming town in Illinois called Coyne Center. He received his masters in social work and doctorate in education from the University of Utah. He served on the city council in Provo for eight years and he says he is an expert in creating school improvement plans.
"I'm very passionate about public education," Hudnall said. His public education philosophy includes the belief that parents know what's best for their child, that the most important person schools hire is a teacher, and that his primary role as an administrator in education is to work as a public servant.
He also believes that everyone needs to be evaluated on a yearly basis, from the superintendent to the custodians. Everything should always be in constant, vigorous evaluation, he said.
If chosen, he plans to focus on the State School Board's vision of keeping promises. "I think that I have the skill set to make a difference [and] to move forward promises to keep," he said.
Martell Menlove • Menlove is currently the deputy state superintendent for the Utah State Office of Education. In the past he worked as the superintendent for Box Elder County School District and Rich County School District. He's also been a teacher, a counselor, a principal and a director.
He grew up in Nephi and graduated from Juab High School. After that he received a variety of college degrees from Snow College, Utah State and the University of Utah, including a Ph.D. in special education from Utah State.
He said his goal as state superintendent would be to make the State Board of Education's vision a reality. "My vision and mission would be their vision and mission. I would work for them," he said.
He plans to bring together stakeholders, administrators, legislators and parents and teachers in a collaborative effort to improve public education in Utah. "I think I can I can bring people with me toward a common goal and a common vision."
He is married to state Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland.
Michael Sentance •Sentance has worked for the U.S. Department of Education as the Secretary's regional representative. He spent more than 20 years working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including a job as the senior education advisor to the governor. He was the president of education reform strategies at Tribal Group USA, a technology company that services educators.
From Massachusetts, sentence graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown Univerity. He went on to receive his Juris Doctor law degree from Duquesne University and his Master of Laws from Boston University.
He said both of his parents were public school educators and he developed an interest in public education from a young age. "Law made more sense for me as a career to advance the interests I thought were important," he said.
He believes that Utah is a state that values education and he's prepared to implement change with the public education system here. Some of the items on his agenda include school management, teacher quality, funding and cultural change toward supporting change in schools.
Said Sentance, "I can help foster change more quickly in Utah and assist the people there [to] create the kind of prosperity that they want to see in the future."
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