School Leader Candidates Down To 4

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The four finalists seeking the job of superintendent of the Payson Unified School District met with nearly 50 community members, teachers and parents at Rim Country Middle School Thursday evening, answering questions and discussing their philosophies for a successful school district.

The remaining candidates are Don Clark, Michael Melton, Casey O'Brien and Roy Sandoval. Linda Nelson withdrew from the candidacy because of another job opportunity in Chicago.

The candidates spent 30 minutes in each of four classrooms with an audience of about 12 members composed of parents, teachers and community members. After a 30-minute question-and-answer period, each candidate rotated classrooms until every audience had an opportunity to interview them.

The question-and-answer session was conducted in this manner to provide each candidate with an equal amount of time to answer questions and each audience member the opportunity to ask questions, said JoAnne Hilde of Search Solutions, a private consulting firm hired by the district to oversee the candidacy process.

After the two-hour interviews, the audience members submitted comment cards about each candidate for review by the school board.

Don Clark is a principal and superintendent in the Cordova, Alaska School District and said he believes in setting goals for a school system.

"Every district needs visionary leadership," he said. "I want to provide a working environment where everyone wants to be there."

Clark said he believes schools have two purposes -- to provide outstanding educational opportunities for children and to prepare children socially.

Mike Melton is the current superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District -- a position he's held for 10 years.

Melton said that he believes in the idea of a proactive approach to a school district rather than a reactive approach.

"I'll show up," he said. "I'll be prepared and I'll advocate."

Melton said that community involvement in the school district is essential for successful schools.

Casey O'Brien, the superintendent for curriculum/instruction and academic achievement for the Nogales School District, said he envisions a lot of promise for the district.

"All the schools in the district have the potential to be excelling schools," he said.

O'Brien said that he believes in creating positive, lasting change within a school district.

"When you create systemic change, things will continue to go well," he said. "I want to have a great school district, not a good or satisfactory one."

Roy Sandoval is the current principal of Payson High School.

Sandoval said that using the minds of good people would help create solutions to problems that the schools might face.

Sandoval said that the biggest challenge he would face as superintendent would be attracting and retaining quality teachers.

The Payson Unified School District Board will interview all the candidates today, Friday, and announce its selection to replace the retiring current superintendent, Sue Myers, at the board meeting Monday.

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