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ConVal

Superintendent candidates  discuss key issues facing ConVal

  • Brendan Minnihan, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Brendan Minnihan, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Wayne Anderson, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Wayne Anderson, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Brendan Minnihan, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Brendan Minnihan, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Brendan Minnihan, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Wayne Anderson, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brendan Minnihan, a candidate for the ConVal school superintendent job, talks to members of the ConVal School Board during an interview Thursday.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

PETERBOROUGH — The two finalists for the ConVal school superintendent job answered questions from School Board members at a board meeting Thursday evening, after spending the day in private meetings with invited parents, teachers and members of the ConVal community.

Brendan Minnihan, a Greenfield resident who is superintendent of the Sunapee School District, and Wayne Anderson, superintendent of the Mount Horeb Area School District in Wisconsin, spoke for about an hour each in separate interviews, each answering a series of questions from board members.

“Public education is the rock. It’s the key to our democracy,” said Minnihan in response to the first question from the board. He said his job as superintendent would be to make it possible for students to get the best possible education and do it in a fiscally responsible manner.

“My role would be to try to get rid of the distractions, so teachers and employees can go do the jobs they are hired for, to help the kids,” Minnihan said. He said one of his first tasks would be to get out in the community to talk to people about their impressions of the district.

“You have a high performing district in so many ways,” Minnihan said. “And there is room for improvement.”

Anderson, who called public education “the great equalizer,” said he sees the superintendent’s role as providing a pathway for a school district.

“My job is to keep you out of trouble. My job is to minimize conflict,” he said. “My job is to coordinate. You have to be strong enough to admit if you’ve made an error.

One of his first tasks would be to meet with as many people as possible, but not necessarily in his office. “I’ll meet them wherever they are comfortable,” he said.

Anderson said his educational philosophy is to expect the best of people, both students and teachers.

“If you believe in people, they will work to reach your high expectations,” he said. “When people believe you care, I’ve seen people do amazing things. You need to let teachers and students know you truly believe in them.”

Both men were asked how they would deal with the possibility of having to close a school due to declining enrollment.

Minnihan said that when he was assistant superintendent for the Fall Mountain District, a number of students were attending schools that were not in their home town.

“It was very polarizing,” he said. “We allowed kids to age out so they could finish. If a student had a sibling at the school, they could continue there. There were some special exceptions that only the School Board could grant. In my opinion, if it’s not handled with gently and with compassion, it’s not going to go well.”

Anderson said he’d been fortunate in that Mt. Horeb has only had to close one building, which was obviously outdated.

“The building had a great history, but everyone realized that bringing students in to a new building was best,” he said.

Anderson, 57, has been superintendent of the Mount Horeb district for 17 years and has spent his entire career in education in Wisconsin. The Mount Horeb 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, who has a Ph.D degree from the University of Wisconsin, worked as an assistant principal, an elementary school principal and an assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent at Mount Horeb in 1996.

Minnihan, 46, has been superintendent in Sunapee for the last five years. The one-town district has 470 students and has two schools — an elementary school and a combined middle and high school.

Minnihan, who has a Ph.D in education from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., was a middle-school teacher and later served as an assistant principal in the Hampstead School District. He then served as assistant superintendent in the Fall Mountain district for two years — “I never was a principal,” he told the School Board — before becoming superintendent at Sunapee.

Following the interviews, board members met in closed session for discussion. They were scheduled to meet again in closed session on Monday night, after press deadline.

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