Outspoken Eagle County Schools superintendent Jason Glass is the sole finalist for the superintendent position in Jeffco Public Schools, the state’s second largest district and one that has experienced political upheaval in recent years.
The Jeffco school board called a special meeting Monday to affirm the pick after two days of interviews with six applicants last week.
By Colorado law, school districts must publicly name superintendent finalists two weeks before they are appointed. During the next two weeks, the district will work on a contract proposal with Glass. The board is set to vote on the contract May 16 in a public meeting.
Jeffco board members at Monday’s meeting spoke highly of Glass, noting his work in Eagle schools on starting a seal of biliteracy and giving him credit for “doing his homework” on Jeffco’s plans.
“I know it sounds funny, but I really was inspired,” said board member Susan Harmon. “And I needed to be inspired.”
Glass would not start the job before the summer.
“I am honored and excited to be considered for the position of Superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools,” Glass said in a statement released by the Jeffco district. “I am genuinely humbled to be selected as the finalist.”
Former Jeffco superintendent Dan McMinimee is still under contract with the district until the end of June, although his role was redefined so that he could step down after the board announced they would launch a search for his replacement.
McMinimee had experience as an assistant superintendent, but had never been a superintendent before being hired in Jeffco in 2014.
The school board put a premium on finding someone with past experience as a superintendent in its search for a replacement. Glass has been superintendent in Eagle County since 2013. Before that, he was Iowa’s Director of Education.
The Eagle County Schools serves far fewer students than Jeffco, but the demographics are somewhat similar.
The Eagle district has almost 7,000 students, of which about 41 percent qualify for free or discounted lunch — a measure of poverty — and about 31 percent are English learners.
Jeffco has more than 86,000 students, of which about 31 percent qualify for free or discounted lunch and about 8 percent are English learners.
Glass frequently writes editorials for the local newspaper, voicing urgency on issues such as state testing and the need to increase school funding in Colorado. He has also not hesitated to take on the State Board of Education. Last year, Glass criticized the board after it voted down a resolution supporting seals of biliteracy, the add-on to a diploma that Eagle County schools offers.
According to an Eagle County district website, Glass has a bachelor’s degree in political science, two masters degrees and a doctorate in education.
Jeffco hired a search firm, Ray and Associates, to conduct a national search for the position the resulted in 69 applicants. Eleven qualified were presented to the board, and six were interviewed.
Jeffco school board president Ron Mitchell said the board asked candidates whether they were open to being named one of several finalists. Mitchell said the candidates in general were open to the idea but only if it was an “authentic” part of the process, and not if the board had a clear favorite.
Mitchell said Glass did rise to the top and said it would not have been fair to publicly name more finalists.
“We would not have wanted the community to point us in different direction,” Mitchell said, noting that the board used input from the community in vetting the candidates.
Leadership in Jeffco has been in flux because of sharp swings in recent school board elections. McMinimee was hired after a conservative board majority took control of the board. Those board members were recalled in November 2015, replaced by three members backed by a coalition of well-connected parents, high-profile county Democrats and the teachers union.