COLUMBIA – And then there were two. Either Chris Belcher or Skip Deming will get the job of superintendent for Columbia Public Schools. The Columbia School Board announced selection of the two finalists Friday in a news release.
Belcher has been an assistant principal in Liberty, assistant to the superintendent in Blue Springs, and assistant superintendent in Warrensburg. He is currently the superintendent for the Kearney School District.
Deming is a former teacher, elementary school principal, assistant superintendent and co-interim superintendent for Columbia Public Schools.
Deming, who retired from the district in 2004, was first considered by the board when it was looking for an interim superintendent to replace Phyllis Chase, according to board member Tom Rose. Deming said that he was not interested in the job because of travel commitments he had made, as well as the fact that the board had found Jim Ritter to fill the post.
But two weeks ago, after the board started interviewing five candidates for the superintendent job, Deming's name came up again.
"We directly contacted him ourselves (about the job)," Rose said. "The board made the direct contact there."
When the board contacted Deming, he let them know that he was interested in applying. After hearing of his interest, board members postponed the previously scheduled candidate receptions last week so that the they could interview Deming for the job.
“I believed (Deming) had the interest there but didn’t have the application in,” Rose said. “We were wanting and willing to look at anybody that had interest in the position. Our objective is to hire the best individual for the position that we can.”
Though Deming was not one of the 17 candidates who applied for the job, Belcher sees no problem with how Deming bypassed phases of the selection process.
“I don’t have issues with how the board did the process,” he said. “I think that the board’s job of selecting a superintendent is extremely difficult.”
The school board decided on the two finalists during executive meeting Thursday night. Belcher received news of being a finalist the next morning.
“I feel pleased,” Belcher said. “I feel like the interview I had with the board was really solid.”
Deming said his long career in the school district, which spans more than 30 years, gives the board's decision added significance to him.
“Personally I feel very honored. Columbia Public Schools has always been a big part of my life.” said Deming, who got his start in public schools as a custodian at Douglass High School.
Belcher said he thinks that coming from outside the Columbia Public Schools – and going against a Columbia native – can both hurt and help him.
“I think you can argue either way; each person brings his own strengths and flaws,” he said. “I don’t see it as a competition. They have to determine who is the best fit not the best person.”
Rose sees the superintendent search the same way.
“I think what we were looking at was the best fit for the district based on their qualifications and what we heard from the community,” he said.
Board member Karla DeSpain also said she thinks the finalists fit the position well.
“These folks stood out to us as people who have high experience with our district or comparable experience with the workings of our district,” she said.
Rose said the board made its decision based the candidates’ “ability with the curriculum, abilities related to finances, ability to be a good communicator with the community and staff, and ability to bring all those things together.”
The Columbia School Board has scheduled public meet-and-greets this week. The public is encouraged to attend and ask questions of the candidates. After the receptions, the board will conduct additional interviews with Belcher and Deming.