Superintendent candidates meet with board, staff and public
Of the two finalists being considered for the job of Hudson school superintendent, only one remained in the running on Monday.
The board is considering Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten, currently the assistant superintendent for the Kimberly Area School District in southeastern Wisconsin.
Candidate Thomas Hughes of Valders withdrew his name from consideration Monday morning in a conversation with district personnel director Bob Benoy. Benoy said Hughes cited the cost of housing in the Hudson area as compared to where he is living now as the primary reason he withdrew his name.
Both candidates were in Hudson last week to see district schools, tour the community and meet with school board members and staff. Each candidate also participated in separate public forums where they answered questions about their background, experience, leadership and management styles. About two dozen people attended each forum.
The Kimberly Area School District is similar to Hudson in size and facilities. The district has 3,919 students, a staff of 430, four elementary schools, one middle school and a high school. Bowen-Eggebraaten supervises a staff of seven. Prior to her current position she served as the director of curriculum at Kimberly, as an elementary principal in the Neenah Joint School District, an assistant principal at Edison Middle School in Green Bay and as a classroom teacher at both the elementary and secondary levels. She is also an adjunct instructor at Viterbo University in La Crosse in the master of education program.
She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and a master's degree in educational leadership from Marian College in Fond du Lac. She also earned a specialist's certificate in administrative leadership from UW-Milwaukee in 2001.
Along with her diverse background in the classroom and in administration, Bowen-Eggebraaten also served six years on the Appleton School Board and was chairman of the facilities committee and worked on several referendums.
Bowen-Eggebraaten described her leadership style as "visionary, always continuing to look at what is next." She said that through a shared vision and collaboration with the staff and the community, schools can prepare students for the constantly changing global environment where they will live and work.
As in her current post, Bowen-Eggebraaten said she would meet frequently with staff and communicate with them individually as warranted via phone, email or face-to-face meetings. She also likes to spend time in the classroom. She recently spent five days in Kimberly's high school observing staff and students.
"It is the best way to see what is happening there and have them see me. I want to be sure they have things they need to do their job."
She recently worked with secondary teachers and principals on the development of writing principles for middle and high school students. "We studied the research together, shared a vision of what those principles should be, and now those teachers will go back to their buildings, work with their colleagues and make it happen."
Bowen-Eggebraaten said she has extensive experience working with the community and parents on committees, with parent groups and community organizations. She has served on the United Way board of directors and on the boards of the Fox Cities Partnership Project and Fox Cities Children's Museum. Again she stressed the importance of providing these groups with the information they need about the schools and students and to be accessible to them to answer their questions and concerns. She believes in involving the public in school life and that there are multiple opportunities for the public to be engaged in their schools.
When asked about the role of extracurricular activities in a district, Bowen-Eggebraaten said she didn't consider them "extra." "Extra implies they are something we don't really need. I think of them as co-curricular and they are important to improving student learning."
Bowen-Eggebraaten said she is aware of issues facing the Hudson School District and said her No. 1 priority if she becomes superintendent will be to listen.
"You need to take the time to listen to key people and let them tell me what they are proud of here and what needs development, what advice do they have ... what is the underlying message ... Learners ask questions, whether you are a student or an adult. You have the information I need."
Bowen-Eggebraaten said she has managed a large budget both as a school administrator and as a school board member and said the job there is to be sure the budget reflects the district's priorities.
Bowen-Eggebraaten said keeping schools and students safe is any district's No. 1 priority, and every district should have a safety plan. "But our schools can only be so safe and still be open. The real key to safety in our schools is making that connection with students. They need to feel known. They need to know diversity is accepted and that adults in their building care about them individually."
Bowen-Eggebraaten said she is committed to working with the teachers union and see their joint role not as negotiators but rather as "problem-solvers" with shared goals.
When asked by an audience member about how she would handle criticism of the superintendent and the district, Bowen-Eggebraaten said she has learned not to take such things personally but to try and understand where those on the attack are coming from.
"I act from a core set of values. You can't please all the people but you can listen to them, respect where they are coming from and try to get in their shoes ... But once I get behind an issue I have no problem standing out in front of it."
The school board and Bowen-Eggebraaten are expected to make a decision by the April 12 school board meeting.
Meg Heaton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org