Superintendent search

The Telluride High/Middle School campus on Colorado Avenue. The district’s board of education announced is has selected three finalists in its search for a new superintendent. Current superintendent, Mike Gass, is retiring at the conclusion of this school year. (Courtesy photo)

The Telluride School District Board of Education announced it has narrowed the field to three candidates in its search for a new school superintendent. The search process was precipitated last year, when Superintendent Mike Gass announced he would be retiring at the conclusion of the current school year.

Board president Stephanie Hatcher said the hiring process for a new superintendent has been gratifying.

“There has been tremendous interest in Telluride School District, which the board has been excited about,” Hatcher said. “Working with teachers, parents, and students in the search process, we are glad to know that the board and community are all looking for the same qualities for our next superintendent.”  

The three finalists are Walter H. Coulter, John W. Pandolfo and Dawn Paré. The candidates will be in Telluride for another round of interviews Feb. 23-25. The community is encouraged to attend a meet-and-greet Feb. 24 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Telluride Elementary School cafeteria.

Coulter currently serves as education program administrator for the Bureau of Indian Education in Window Rock, New Mexico, a position he’s held since 2016. Before then, he was education operations chief and chief of staff for the Department of Defense Education Activity of the Community Superintendent’s Office in Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. He has also served as school principal in the U.S. and overseas. And avid snowboarder and outdoorsman, Coulter was raised in western Colorado and received his doctorate from the University of Nevada-Reno in 2011. His dissertation is titled, “Perceived Stress, Holistic Wellness, and Leadership Practices of School Administrators as Influenced by Selected Variables.” No stranger to the Telluride area, Coulter enjoys camping at Priest Lake, according a district news release.

Like Coulter, Pandolfo knows Telluride and nearly became a math teacher here in 2008. Since 2015, he has served as superintendent of Barre Unified Union School District in Vermont. Last year he was honored with that state’s Superintendent of the Year award. From 2012-15, he was the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment in the same district. His career in education began in 1994 in California, when he was a math teacher at John O’Connell High School in San Francisco and then at Berkeley High School in 1995. He moved to Vermont in 1999, where he taught math at Spaulding High School in Barre and at U-32 High School in East Montpelier. He holds an MBA and worked for eight years as an engineer before becoming an educator.

With Paré, the Colorado connection continues. She has been with the Weld RE-1 School District since 2017, where she served first as director of personnel and professional development. This school year, she was elevated to the role of chief academic officer. Paré is a past colleague of Gass. The two worked together in the Eagle County School District from 2005-12. Her resume also includes classroom teaching positions at the elementary and middle school levels from 1991-2007, and she served as instructional coach in Eagle from 2007-12, at which time she began working for the Colorado Department of Education as director of educator effectiveness.

Hatcher said that it was important for community members to take some time to meet the candidates.

“While each of our three finalists have the skills and background to be successful at the job, the fit for our community is very important,” Hatcher said. “It’s one of those intangible qualities that can only be assessed by a face-to-face meeting.”

She added that those attending the meet-and-greet are encouraged to give feedback to school board members.

Telluride’s charms are evident for anyone seeking work here, especially at the professional level, Hatcher said.

“Telluride School District tops the state in performance and is nestled in a world-class resort town with access to highly sought-after outdoor adventure activities, as well as cultural events,” she said. “For the well-suited candidate, it’s a dream job. The board is doing its utmost to place the gems of our community, our schools and youth, in the right hands.”

The school board plans to announce the new superintendent no later than March 6. Gass’ last day as superintendent is June 30.