On a tight schedule

    Superintendent finalists tour Ashland schools
  • You could call it superintendent speed dating.
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  • You could call it superintendent speed dating.
    The three finalists being considered to be Ashland School District's next superintendent spent Friday separately touring classrooms, quads and cafeterias. They met the principals of seven schools, and said hello to rushed parents and children bogged down by backpacks.
    The candidates, all from out of state, are in Ashland for two days to meet and greet and be interviewed one more time before a decision is made on who will replace Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, who is retiring after 13 years on the job.
    They are vying for a position that oversees nearly 2,750 students, approximately 300 full-time and part-time teachers, support staff and administrators, and has a total budget for 2012-13 of $43.9 million.
    The salary for the new superintendent ranges from $120,000 to $135,000, according to Ashland School Board Chairwoman Carol Davis.
    The finalists already have survived a rigorous application process, screening, interviews, reference checks and a visit by Davis and board member Jim Westrick to their school districts.
    In Ashland on Friday, they were given a unique itinerary — their paths didn't cross — and were escorted to their 10 appointments by a member of the school board.
    At 8 a.m., finalist Gary Plano was shaking hands with Walker Elementary School Principal Patty Michiels outside her office.
    Throughout the day, Michiels wanted each of the finalists to discover that teachers design curriculum collaboratively at each grade level.
    Plano was introduced to the elementary math curriculum in action as students used technology to show the thinking behind problem solving. He also spoke with the special education teacher Joanne Cyphers, who explained how the staff meets the needs of students with learning disabilities.
    Inside Heidi Heidig's fifth-grade classroom, he listened as students heard the academic lineup for the day and that veggie wraps would be served for lunch.
    Plano, who has a doctor of education degree from Seton Hall University, has been the superintendent since 2007 of Washington state's Mercer Island School District, which has about 4,200 kindergarten through 12th-grade students, a staff of 495 and an annual budget of about $48.5 million, according to the district's website.
    He plans to retire in Ashland, whether he receives the job or not, and has already built a home here.
    While walking the school hallway, he said, "Kids are kids, no matter where they live."
    At 9 a.m., Ashland High School Principal Michelle Zundel was leading finalist Debra Spring Munk on a whirlwind tour. In 45 minutes, candidates visited a handful of classrooms where subjects from English to fiber arts were being taught.
    In Karen Green's Food II class, students were making red velvet cupcakes. "The breakfast of champions," joked Zundel. She and Munk then continued on to Laura Davidson's sewing class, where students were cutting squares for a collective quilt.
    There was also a brief stop to meet journalists at the Rogue News classroom and a quick pass by Athletic Director Karl Kemper. Munk asked him about that night's basketball game, showing she had done her homework.
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