Minneapolis schools chief offered superintendent job in Colorado Springs School District 11

D-11 superintendent candidate Michael Thomas. Photo by Debbie Kelley, The Gazette

A chief of Minneapolis Public Schools will be offered the job of superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11.

The district board of education voted unanimously Monday night to negotiate a contract with Michael Thomas to replace the retiring Nicholas Gledich.

The offer hinges on successful negotiations, said board President Jim Mason.

The board discussed contract specifics in a closed-door session after the 7-0 vote.

The job listing cites a salary of about $245,000, plus benefits.

"We would love to have a multi-year contract because it is the most prudent method rather than working year to year," Mason said.

Gledich, who's been superintendent for nine years, had a three-year contract evaluated annually.

Thomas, one of two finalists from 1,100 applicants, edged out Joel Boyd of Boston Public Schools in a public interview Friday night and an online community survey, district leaders said.

The 68 respondents of the anonymous survey ranked strategic planning, leading change and credibility as Thomas' top three strengths of 15 leadership competencies.

His top three weaknesses: business perspective, forging synergy and, tying for third, global awareness and interpersonal savvy.

Of five professional qualities, Thomas scored highest on administrative competence and lowest on communication skills.

On personal attributes, Thomas ranked highest on professional appearance and lowest on personality.

By contrast, Boyd's knowledge of job tasks ranked the highest among professional qualities; his knowledge of instruction ranked lowest. Noted weaknesses in Boyd's leadership skills were credibility, inspiring commitment and leading change. Of personal qualities, Boyd scored highest on confidence and lowest on maturity.

"Either can do the job successfully," Mason said. "However, there was one I think speaks and was more of the character and person that's better suited for the community, and that's my preference."

"We are going to be in very good hands," said board member Mary Coleman. "He's calm, he was a professional and he's very experienced."

Board member Nora Brown said Thomas' "dedication to inclusion, at-risk kids and the advancement of what's been built in District 11" impressed her.

"His vision and his focus aligns with that of the board, the district and the community," Brown said. "I think he'll build on those strengths and take us to the next level."

The six-member District Accountability Committee also recommended Thomas, on a 5-1 vote.

"Right now, he would be the best fit for the needs of the district," said Chairman Parth Melpakam.

Also, D-11 mirrors Minneapolis' school district in several ways.

"The system we have, the demographics, the enrollment all are similar, and we thought it would be an easier transition to make," Melpakam said.

Local businessman Earl Daniels, who attended Monday's meeting, said he really liked both candidates, but Thomas stuck out for his willingness to focus on securing grants.

"I appreciate that line of thinking," he said. "The school district needs all of the resources it can get, and to have someone with that type of vision is something I appreciated."

Nila Rickard, who has two children at Stratton Elementary School, said she was happy to hear Thomas was the choice.

"I loved his poise, his enthusiasm, his intelligence," she said. "I thought he was the right choice to lead the district."

Rickard said she attended the meeting with her daughter because she thinks it's good for kids to see their parents involved and informed.

"It's important to know who's running our district and who's going to be making changes and what's to come," she said.

Thomas, who is earning a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, started his career as a community-based social worker.

The Minnesota native has worked in Minnesota school districts as an elementary and junior high principal and a district administrator coordinating equity and integration efforts.

"For me, it's all about the students," he said during Friday's public interview. "I'll work hard to support the staff and building leaders in partnering with the community and family members. Everything must be oriented to partnering."

Gledich will work with Thomas for a few weeks before he leaves the position June 22.

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