By Yesenia Robles and Carina Julig, Chalkbeat Colorado
This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at ckbe.at/newsletters
A divided board. A mistrustful public. Lagging academic achievement. Rising youth violence.
The Aurora school board is searching for a new superintendent, who will face these issues and more.
“It’s the superintendent who sets that tone and builds that team and drives that momentum,” said Aurora school board President Debbie Gerkin. “So what’s at stake is whether we get a leader who can do that or one who can’t.”
Aurora’s next superintendent will be the district’s first new leader in nearly a decade. That person will have to navigate a feuding board, restore trust with the community, and get buy-in for their vision. At the same time, the ideal candidate would figure out how to meet the needs of a diverse student body, improve mental health services and academic performance, and find a fair way to deal with school closures and shifting enrollment.
A look at recent years shows how challenging the job is. Superintendent Rico Munn abruptly announced in December that he’d leave at the end of the school year, and stepped into the background while the board named an interim leader.
Board members declined to speak on reasons for Munn’s departure and about whether they want a change in course for his long-term projects. Recent disagreements in public meetings included anger over school closures and a lack of trust in efforts to engage the community.
School board members are interviewing six unnamed semi-finalists from among 28 applicants and are expected to announce three finalists as soon as next week.