Durango School District 9-R will likely have to up the ante when it hires a new superintendent, district board members were told Tuesday night in an update on the search to replace Dan Snowberger.
“Superintendent salaries in Colorado are all over the place. There doesn’t appear to be good comparables, but one district you compare yourself to, Cheyenne Mountain, pays their superintendent $265,000,” said Randy Quinn, a senior partner with Aspen Group International, a consulting firm helping the district find a new leader.
Snowberger, who was hired as superintendent in 2012, announced he would be leaving the district at the end of June. He earns $169,320 annually.
“One conclusion is: You are on the lower end of the range,” Quinn said.
Steamboat Springs, another district 9-R compares itself to, pays its superintendent $201,000 annually, Quinn said.
Linda Dawson, also a senior partner with Aspen Group International, said so far six applicants have applied to lead 9-R. She expects a final applicant pool of about 40 people.
The 9-R superintendent opening was published Wednesday in Education Week, the main source for K-12 education job notices, and Dawson said that would likely trigger receipt of the majority of applications.
Already, Dawson said, one of the six applicants has asked her about Durango’s high housing prices, adding it is one factor that might be a drag in recruiting.
School board President Kristen Smith suggested offering a housing stipend.
Dawson said she has been involved in superintendent searches in which housing has been included as part of the compensation package, but not one in which a housing stipend was added.
Quinn did suggest looking at enhanced benefits.
“There may be elements of a total package that would offset some of the salary,” he said.
Aspen Group International is also working with 9-R to create a group of 12 to 15 community members who would review applicants’ resumes and letters of interest to help the school board cut the qualified applicant pool down to about eight to 10 people.
“You want advice from someone who has gone through this, people you trust, people of goodwill,” Dawson said.
Board members also chose Theresa Rodriguez, registrar at Fort Lewis College, to fill the vacant District E seat, which includes the FLC area and northeast La Plata County.
Rodriguez, who speaks Spanish and is active in Durango’s Latinx community, was among seven applicants.
She said the recent experience of going through a search for a new president at FLC would help her as 9-R continues its superintendent search.
Seeking a new president at FLC, Rodriguez said, illustrated for her how important it is to receive “buy-in from all various stakeholders.”
Rodriguez will serve through the end of November, to complete the term of Shere Byrd, who resigned last November. Rodriguez said she plans to seek election to the board in November 2021.