Enthusiasm, Spanish-speaking skills help superintendent-elect secure Summit School District’s approval
School board awaits Anthony Byrd's decision on its offer to lead the district starting July 1
Anthony Byrd’s energy, enthusiasm and bilingual speaking skills won over Summit School District board members as they finalized their selection of a new superintendent Tuesday, March 15.
For more than four hours Tuesday evening, the board pored over letters of recommendation, interviews, stakeholder surveys, essays and applications documenting the skills and goals of three finalists: Anthony Byrd, Bethany Massey and Sheldon Rosenkrance.
While all three of the finalists impressed the board with their experience and dedication to the position, it was Byrd’s energy, skill set and commitment that ultimately swayed the board.
Although the board announced him as its selection Tuesday night, Byrd had not yet signed a contract with the district as of Wednesday afternoon. If he accepts the job, the new superintendent will take over for Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford on July 1.
In his interview, Byrd demonstrated excitement about the position.
“I want to commit 10 years to a community that’s a small size, that matches the interests you have with my skills that I can bring to the table,” Byrd said at his interview with the board Friday, March 11.
Byrd, who currently lives in Seattle, said he fell in love with Summit County when he first rode through as part of an annual bike challenge that takes riders from Evergreen to Vail while raising money for nonprofits.
“I’ve done that twice, and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is the most beautiful place I’ve been in my life,’” he recalled during the interview.
It wasn’t just Byrd’s love of Summit County’s natural beauty that impressed the board. Prior to interviewing, he spent a week in the county visiting with local leaders, students and organizations like Early Childhood Options and the Family & Intercultural Resource Center.
“Dr. Byrd certainly exceeded in trying to have an understanding as an outsider, not from the mountain area, not from Colorado,” board member Chris Alleman said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We would hope any potential superintendent would have that foresight and willingness to understand the district.”
Byrd’s skills and experience as an educator also impressed the board members. Byrd, who holds a doctorate in education from the University of Washington, started his public education career as a bilingual teacher through the Teach for America program in Pasadena, California. He went on to become the principal of various schools, two of which were located in Edmonds, Washington, where he later became an assistant superintendent for the Edmonds School District from 2007 to 2013.
In 2013, he became an associate superintendent for Everett School District in Everett, Washington, a position he held for three years before becoming the executive director of Teach for America Washington.
Byrd is the only finalist without direct superintendent experience. However, the board members felt his ability to speak Spanish and his experience leading large organizations and working with school boards as an assistant superintendent make him qualified for the job.
“(He’s) bilingual. Forty percent of our families in this school district are Spanish-speaking, and I have to see that as a positive because, no matter how much we try, I can’t reach out to that community wholeheartedly,” board member Johanna Kugler said.
In his interview, Byrd also spoke at length about the district’s graduate profile. The profile outlines a district commitment to graduate students who are courageous, curious, globally aware, growth oriented and prepared.
Byrd said he hopes to achieve those goals by looking at the students as a whole rather than just their academics.
“The fact that you’re thinking about students beyond test scores and much more broadly is really exciting to me,” Byrd said.
The board members were also impressed with Byrd’s references, who reportedly said he’s energetic, has lots of ideas and likes to think big. In his interview, Byrd said he can sometimes get too excited about new ideas, but his references said he knows how to focus when needed.
Board Vice President Consuelo Redhorse said she’s excited to see what he can do to build long-lasting systems that support students past his time as superintendent.
“Our school district could benefit and has been really working toward really building systems that can outlast our leadership, systems that will still be here when we are no longer in our board seats,” Redhorse said. “That is very important because we need to have stability.”
Byrd also received the highest score from stakeholder interviews with parents, community members, staff and teachers. The stakeholders rated each of the finalists on a scale in six categories: communication, experience, visibility, cultural competency and leadership.
Byrd scored the highest in all of the categories except for experience, in which he placed second next to Rosenkrance, said Walt Cooper, a hiring consultant with McPherson & Jacobson.
At Tuesday’s meeting, members of the public commended the board on its transparency and inclusion throughout the hiring process. The board held only two closed-door meetings in relation to the superintendent search, which were done to protect the privacy of candidates who did not make it to the final round. Everything else, from interviews to deliberations on the three finalists, were held in public and broadcast on Zoom.
“Not only did you present three outstanding candidates, you conducted a process that was transparent, inclusive and brought together all elements of this community who wished to participate,” said Don Parsons, a grandfather of Summit County students.
If Byrd accepts the position, the board will vote on his signed contract at its March 24 meeting.
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