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ConVal trims superintendent search to two

A Greenfield resident whose daughter attends South Meadow School and an educator who heads a Wisconsin school district of 2,300 students from two municipalities and eight townships are the two finalists for the ConVal School District superintendent job.

Gary Solomon of PROACT Search, the Illinois company that was hired by the School Board to find a replacement for current Superintendent Dick Bergeron, announced Monday that Brendan Minnihan, the current superintendent of the Sunapee School District, and Wayne Anderson, superintendent of the Mount Horeb Area School District in Wisconsin, have been recommended to participate in a series of community meetings and interviews that will be held early in March.

Last September, Bergeron announced that he would not remain as ConVal’s superintendent when his contract expires at the end of the 2012-2013 year. The district had budgeted $10,000 for the search process and PROACT Search was hired to recruit candidates. More than 65 applications were received. Six candidates were interviewed and Minnihan and Anderson were chosen as the finalists.

Wayne Anderson

Anderson, 57, has been superintendent of the Mount Horeb district for 17 years and has spent his entire career in education in Wisconsin. In a phone interview on Monday, he said he and his wife, Susan, became intrigued with the ConVal job after he was contacted by the search firm.

“We thought this district sounds very similar to where I’m at,” Anderson said. “I have friends from New Hampshire. It’s the type of country I’m looking for. … I just thought this might be a good place to spend the end of my career — meaning probably at least seven or eight years.”

Anderson said Mount Horeb is similar to ConVal in that the district encompasses several communities. The village of Mount Horeb, the largest municipality in the district, has about 7,000 people. The district has five schools — an Early Learning Center for preschool and kindergarten students, a primary center for grades 1 and 2, an intermediate center for grades 3 to 5, a middle school for grades 6 to 8 and a high school.

Anderson said he considers himself fiscally conservative when it comes to school budgets. As a result, he said, every budget that has been proposed during his tenure has been approved. He said he has also been successful in generating support from the community for various building projects.

“One of my strengths is bringing people together,” he said. “I’ve been involved in four building projects and every one of our referendums has passed the first time. We’ve been very successful.”

Anderson was raised on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin and studied to be a pastor before going into teaching. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls in 1981 and taught English and coached cross-county, wrestling, basketball, forensics and drama in Wisconsin schools before moving into school administration. He worked as an assistant principal, an elementary school principal and an assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent at Mount Horeb in 1996.

Anderson earned a Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1985 and a Ph.D from Wisconsin in 1994. He currently teaches finance at the university, which he said is about 15 minutes away from Mount Horeb.

Anderson’s wife is a retired teacher. The couple has two adult children and two grandchildren.

Brendan Minnihan

Minnihan, 46, has been superintendent in Sunapee for the last five years, commuting from his home in Greenfield.

“We’re a small district that withdrew from a larger one,” Minnihan said on Monday. “It’s one town, 470 students, pre-K to 12. I had the task of assembling a team to start the district when it began. One of the benefits is that I’ve had the opportunity to do lots of things that you might not otherwise get to do.”

The district formed when the town of Sunapee went through the process to withdraw from SAU 43, which included the towns of Newport and Croydon.

“Not everyone in town was in favor, but now everyone seems to enjoy the ability to have their own superintendent, someone focused on the needs of the town,” Minnihan said. “We tend to be a pretty high performing district overall. It’s a great community, very supportive. Our budget proposals have always done very well over the years.”

Minnihan said he’s familiar with the ConVal district both as a resident and a parent.

“It’s a great district,” he said. “I’ve lived in Greenfield for about 12 years. My daughter attended Greenfield Elementary, which was very inclusive. She’s now an eighth-grader at South Meadow. They have great programs there. My hope would be to find ways to make all the communities aware of the great things that are happening in ConVal schools.”

He said one of his goals if he is hired at ConVal would be to continue work toward becoming a high-performing district.

“There are so many economic benefits to being high-performing,” Minnihan said. “The better you are, the more likelihood you’ll have families wanting to move into the district.”

He said ConVal’s size can be an asset in this regard, since the nine different communities offer a range of lifestyles that can attract a variety of people.

Minnihan has been a teacher and served as an assistant principal in the Hampstead School District. He then served as assistant superintendent in the Fall Mountain district for two years , where his focus was primarily curriculum development, special education, technology development and Title One issues.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in economics and European studies from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a Master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a Ph.D in education from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

His wife, Sue, is a psychologist in Wilton.

Next steps

The two candidates will participate in an on-site interview process that’s currently scheduled for March 7. The day will start with two 75-minute meetings — one with a group of parents and community/business leaders; the other with staff members from the district.

The ConVal administration is in the process of determining who will be invited to sit on the groups conducting those interviews, according to ConVal Human Resources Director Tim Markley.

Following the two meetings, each candidate will have a 60-minute interview with the School Board.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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