Mountain Pine School District takes community approach in new superintendent search

The Mountain Pine School District sign as seen near the school's entrance on Sept. 26, 2023. (The Sentinel-Record/Brandon Smith/File)
The Mountain Pine School District sign as seen near the school's entrance on Sept. 26, 2023. (The Sentinel-Record/Brandon Smith/File)

MOUNTAIN PINE -- The Mountain Pine School District is closer to naming its next school superintendent, recently selecting six finalists from a pool of nearly 30 candidates.

The finalists include Bryce Harrison, principal at Poyen High School; Frank Janaskie, principal at Fountain Lake High School; Mack Skelton, operations administrator at Harrisburg School District; Mike Radebaugh, principal at Hope Middle School; Nathan Sullivan, principal at White Hall High School; and Tish Knowles, superintendent at Earle School District.

Janaskie and Skelton are also among four finalists for the open superintendent position at Fountain Lake School District.

Individual interviews began on Wednesday with stakeholder focus groups consisting of both staff and community committees. Current Superintendent Bobby Applegate announced his retirement last fall, to be effective June 30.

"We actually had a working meeting to sit down and go through all of them," Mountain Pine School Board President Shawn Blees said Wednesday. "There's been some that have come in after we had already picked the six finalists. So if one of the six don't (work out), we're going to go back through and start the process again."

Blees said the board's main goal in the selection process is to have as many people from different backgrounds in the community participate.

"And the way we came (to these), we just looked through each one to see if there was any inclination that they might fit our little school, in our little community," he said. "That's the big thing, is trying to get someone that can come in and fit our community. When Mr. Applegate came in, I was not on the board, but he fit in the community well."

Although there is no set timeline to select a final candidate, Blees said the interviews, which are open to the public, will be done on separate days with the last one scheduled for Jan. 19. According to a news release, an executive session will follow each meeting in which comments given by the stakeholders will be reviewed.

Blees said they are just taking the process one day at a time right now.

"We did do a community committee this year. I thought we needed some community involvement to see what they thought. And I know not every one of them will be there every time, but I think we have 11 on that panel of previous alumni, a previous board member, previous secretary from the school ... so we kind of went well-rounded with that to help get some input from them," he said.

The community committee consists of three area ministers, along with District 12 Justice of the Peace Jeremy Brown and others.

"The community committee will also be talking with the applicants," he said. "They're going to have questions also. A lot of it's going to be community-based, but they're going to get some of the same questions the faculty and board asks."

The staff committee consists of five teachers from the elementary school, five from the high school, and six from the district in general, such as those who work in administration, paraprofessionals, and the maintenance coordinator.

The joint community effort, he said, will ultimately give the board a better feel in being able to select the right one.

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