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Lockhart’s bid to lead Utah schools draws mixed reactions
Superintendent » Some worry about her lack of education experience.

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The needed skills » Dawn Davies, Utah PTA president-elect, said Friday the PTA does not take positions on candidates, but it has sent the state board a list of qualifications it would like to see in the next state superintendent.

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They include: knowledge of public education, rules, laws, regulations and processes; knowledge and ability to testify and communicate clearly at the Legislature; and the ability to develop relationships with employees and the community, among other things.

Judi Clark, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education, also didn’t comment specifically on Lockhart’s application. But she said she’s encouraged by the state school board’s efforts so far — pointing to the board’s decision this week to appoint Joel Coleman as interim superintendent.

That shows "they’re interested in finding the right person, not the person who’s available right now," Clark said.

Coleman is a former state school board member and superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. His appointment drew some controversy, with the board voting 9-6. Some members were concerned about a pending lawsuit his wife filed against education officials and the state charter school board. Others decried Coleman’s lack of experience as a public school teacher.

Coleman has spent his career as a seminary teacher and administrator for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

What’s next? » Board vice chairman Dave Thomas said the board may vote on a new superintendent at its Oct. 3 meeting.

Before then, he said, the board will select semifinalists, who will be vetted by board members and representatives of various groups, including district superintendents, lawmakers, the PTA and school boards. The board’s search committee will then narrow the list to finalists, who will be interviewed by the full state board.

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That final vote must be public.

But Thomas said the board hasn’t yet decided how much of the rest of the process will be public. During the last superintendent search, finalists’ names were announced and their interviews were public.

The board will conduct a nationwide search with the help of a Salt Lake City-based firm. Thomas said he believes it’s important to choose the best person for the job.

"That doesn’t mean we’re looking for any specific individual from outside education nor does it mean we’re looking for anyone specifically within public education," Thomas said Friday. "We’re looking for well-rounded individuals who can best move forward the priorities of the state board of education."

Matt Lyon, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, said the school board should not be swayed by Lockhart’s connections.

"Lockhart’s qualifications, her job history, should be the consideration to look at and not her status in Utah politics," he said.

The opening comes amid allegations of dysfunction among board members and the departures of both Superintendent Menlove and deputy superintendent Brenda Hales. Earlier this month, Hales stopped working, saying she would use vacation and other leave until her retirement becomes official at the end of the year.

Shortly after that, Menlove, who had previously announced his retirement, decided he would leave in coming weeks rather than wait for a permanent replacement as he once planned.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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