The district compiled committees to assist in principal interview process

Three committees, comprised of students, faculty and community members, helped choose Gail Holder as the next principal


By Steven Curto

In the search for a new school principal the district decided to include students, faculty and community members in the process by forming three separate committees who would get to interview the three principal candidates and help choose who they thought was the most qualified to be the next principal.

Steven Curto and Sophie Lecuru

The district compiled three interview committees consisting of students, teachers and parents to help choose the school’s next principal.

The student committee is made up of 12 students from a variety of grade levels who were recommended to be on the student interview committee by the school’s administration, director of human resources Brian Schwanz.

“I asked the school administration to provide me with a list of students that would be a good cross-section of the student body. We want to make sure all aspects of the student body are represented,” Schwanz said via email.

Enthralled by the district’s decision to include students in the process, student committee member junior John Fraka agrees with the school’s selection of students on the committee.

“I think the committee has a good variety of students because everyone in the committee is involved in different activities so they can provide different perspectives on who they want as principal,” Fraka said.

Fraka appreciated the opportunity to be on the committee and believes student insight is an important aspect of choosing a principal who is best fit to represent the interests of students.

The purpose of the student committee is to help the administration get a student perspective in the selection process to help them gauge if the students will like the new principal.”

— junior John Fraka

“The purpose of the student committee is to help the administration get a student perspective in the selection process to help them gauge if the students will like the new principal,” Fraka said. “I have not heard of a school doing this, but I think it’s cool because it gives us a voice on who will be hired as the principal,”

The teacher interview committee consisted of 11 teachers. Staff members who were interested in being part of the interview committee were asked to fill out a short application and were selected by district administrators.

“The interested staff members completed the application and they were reviewed by [superintendent] Dr. [Frank] Harwood, Mrs. [Carrie] Handy and myself,” Schwanz said.

Social studies teacher Jeff Wieland applied to the teacher committee and was chosen as a member. He felt obligated to apply to the committee as Vice President of the Teachers Association.

Wieland was looking for a principal who values teamwork, academics and has a positive attitude toward both teachers and students.

“I’m looking for somebody who is dynamic, takes initiative, is also empathetic to both teachers and students, and someone who doesn’t think they’re always right and is willing to listen to others and treats our school and our staff as a team as opposed to someone who adopts maybe more of a top down hierarchical view of how our staff should function,” Wieland said.

Much like Frakas’s positive opinion of diversity on the student committee, Wieland believes the teacher committee is representing the views of a variety of staffers such as secretaries and the school social worker Debbie Gudenkauf.

“I think they’ve done a fair job of choosing who those people are as I think each department is represented,” Wieland said. “You know, we have one of our secretaries that is represented. Ms, Gudenkauf is represented, so… I think we have a really good group of people.”

The committees interviewed finalist candidates and asked them questions that they composed.

Junior Lauren Jarvis, a student on the student committee, assembled her questions for the principal candidates by consulting with her peers.

It was the most professional and thorough process I have ever been a part of.”

— Gail Holder

“Right now I’m taking input from other students and other ideas that I find are pressing within our school and junior class,” Jarvis said. “One big thing is student to teacher ratio and connections between students and teachers.”

Once each of the interview committees concluded their interviews with the principal candidates, superintendent Frank Harwood and directors of human resources Carrie Handy and Brian Schwanz met with each group and compiled their feedback regarding each finalist. District administration assessed their findings in order to agree on a recommendation-for-hire to the Board of Education.

“Once the interviews are completed, Dr. Harwood, Mrs. Handy, and myself will meet with each group to gather feedback regarding each finalist,” Schwanz said.

The district announced that Olathe Public Schools administrator Gail Holder was chosen to be the next principal on Feb. 12.

Holder believes that the inclusion of students, faculty and community members showed that the district values the opinion of a variety of individuals.

“The interview process was very thorough and professional. I was incredibly impressed with the number of stakeholders involved in the process,” Holder said via email. It is clear to me that Mill Valley values the voices of all stakeholders and was determined to find the best fit for the position.”

In Holder’s opinion, the committees asked a variety of well composed questions which helped evaluate each principal candidate and deem which individual was best suited for the school.

“The questions were varied and asked everything from my philosophy of education, how I work to build relationships, to what my process will be to motivate staff, to advancing and building on the foundation of excellence that is already established at MVHS,” Holder said. “I believe that the questions all centered on finding the principal that was the best fit for MVHS.”

The whole process impressed Holder greatly.

“I have not been a part of this kind of process before. Honestly, it was the most professional and thorough process I have ever been a part of,” Holder said. “I was thoroughly impressed with the process and have shared my sentiment with many people.”

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