Columbia School Board to name new superintendent Friday morning

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 5:22 p.m. CST; updated 6:45 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 19, 2009

COLUMBIA — An announcement Friday will reveal the Columbia School Board's choice for the next superintendent of Columbia Public Schools.

After a meeting Tuesday evening, the board had an idea which of the two final candidates — Chris Belcher, superintendent of schools in Kearney, northeast of Kansas City, or Skip Deming, who retired from the Columbia School District in 2004 — would be the board's final selection for superintendent, said Steve Calloway, vice president of the school board.

“We got pretty far down the road,” Calloway said of the four-hour meeting. “We just needed a little more time.”

Calloway said public input guided the board's decision. He said surveys conducted before the selection showed, among other things, the community's desire for a candidate well-versed in school finance.

“We looked at each candidate's acumen and if that met the desires of the public,” Calloway said.

Calloway emphasized the importance of dialogue among board members in arriving at their final decision. If they thought a candidate didn't meet the public's desires in one way, they asked if there were other ways he made up for that.

Calloway said he also considered that he would no longer be on the board when the new superintendent takes over.

“I asked whether this person has the skill to work with the board no matter who is elected,” Calloway said.

Calloway said that, despite some suggestion that one candidate was brought in because the others were deemed unsatisfactory, both candidates were serious contenders for the position, and Calloway said he was pleased in the increased involvement of the public in the board's decision. He said the informal feedback provided by the public after each reception was helpful in making Calloway's decision.

“To make a decision as important as this after two two-hour interviews is kind of scary,” Calloway said.

Earlier in the week, Calloway expressed a desire for a unanimous decision from the board. Although unanimity was not achieved in the final vote Thursday morning, Calloway said, he has no doubt the entire board wants the new superintendent to succeed in his role.

Board member Tom Rose agreed. “We all feel like we are ready to support the decision that we made,” Rose said.

Missourian reporter Amanda Branco contributed to this article.

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