Fort Smith School Board President Dr. Deanie Mehl discusses two superintendent finalists
The Fort Smith School Board named two finalists for the position of Fort Smith Public Schools Superintendent Monday night, Nov. 28, following a daylong executive session of consecutive interviews.
Mike Roth of Leavenworth, Kan., and Doug Brubaker of Garland, Texas, emerged from a list of a dozen initial candidates. The Board narrowed those picks to six on Nov. 19. One, David Pennington, pulled out prior to the interviews, leaving five total for the 90-minute sessions that began at 8 a.m.
“It was a hard decision choosing from the five. They were all superb candidates,” Board President Dr. Deanie Mehl told Talk Business & Politics. “We spent a lot of time getting down to the six, and I was confident we would be able to find our Superintendent in that group. And there is no doubt in my mind we will be so fortunate to have one of these two as our Superintendent.”
Mehl admitted she liked the fact Roth was already a superintendent of a district “about a third the size of ours — he has experience leading a district.” But Brubaker, the associate superintendent of Garland ISD, had experience passing large millages, something the Board knows will be an issue for 2017.
“He was just involved in a millage that was close to $500 million, so while he has not been a superintendent before, he has that experience,” she said.
Both, Mehl said, were strong in implementing technology within their districts, and each candidate set themselves apart with 100-day plans that “recognized the strengths of our district.”
Mehl continued: “Everyone agrees that we want someone, who will build on what we have and not just start bringing in programs to replace programs that don’t need to be replaced. Both of these men were phenomenal candidates in that regard, and we will be truly blessed to finalize with either one of them.”
Mehl highlighted the upcoming millage vote – date to be determined – as a major focus of the School Board and the new superintendent in 2017 and said the district will also need to address renovations on “at least five buildings,” including construction of tornado shelters at Southside and Northside High Schools as well as continued technology improvements across all schools.
Final interviews with Roth and Brubaker will take place in mid-December on dates to be determined. Mehl said two days will be selected the week of Monday, Dec. 12, with each focusing on one candidate and consisting of open forums that will allow the public to submit questions. A final decision would likely be announced by the date of the next School Board meeting (Dec. 19) with a start date sometime in the summer of 2017.
One of the two men will replace Dr. Benny Gooden, who retired in April. Gooden’s compensation package included a $202,000 annual salary, use of a district car, and participation in the Arkansas educator insurance and retirement programs. The new Superintendent will start with the same benefits and an annual salary of $210,000.
Roth graduated with his doctorate of education in December 2015 from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan. He attained superintendent certification in May 2003 from Fort Hays State University. Roth earned a bachelor’s degree in K-12 physical education from Kansas State University 10 years prior to that. His professional experience includes three superintendent positions, the most recent at Leavenworth School District No. 453 in Leavenworth, Kan., from 2014 to present; a second at Clearwater School District USD No. 264 in Clearwater, Kan., from 2006 to 2014; and a third at Deerfield School District USD No. 216 in Deerfield, Kan., from 2001 to 2006.
Brubaker is the associate superintendent of Garland ISD in Garland, Texas. Prior to that, he served for six years as the assistant superintendent of Mansfield ISD in Mansfield, Texas. He began his career in administration in Fort Worth’s Birdville ISD as the assistant principal of North Ridge Elementary School from 1998 to 2000. He has carried a superintendent certification for 10 years, which he earned through the University of Texas Permian Basin after attaining a doctorate from the University of North Texas in 2005. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas in 1994.