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Sherman superintendent search ends quickly

Julia Fall appointed to fill position; search begins for new principal or dean of students

By Jessica R. Wheeler

The Sherman County School Board of Directors met in a special session Thursday, April 27, and ended the meeting with a new superintendent for the 2023-24 academic year.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Sherman Principal Julia Fall to the superintendent role as of this summer. The board will work with legal counsel on contract negotiations.

The district soon will begin posting for either a K-12 principal or dean of students position.

“I have full confidence that Julia can do it, and I think that’s what is right for our district at this point,” board member Kristie Coelsch said. “I don’t say this because I want to get this process done with — I think it’s the right fit for right now.”

Additionally, Superintendent Wes Owens likely will remain involved in some capacity, acting in a consulting or mentorship role for Fall.

Owens will retire this summer at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, the school board told the community Friday, April 21. He officially will step down from his role as superintendent after honoring his contract, which expires Aug. 31.

The news came as a surprise to community members. Last summer, following the departure of several Sherman teachers and staff, Owens released a statement to the community announcing that this would be his last year at Sherman.

At the regular school board meeting April 10, however, the board voted unanimously to renew his contract, first proposing a pay increase of 5 percent before settling on 6.5 percent. Owens appeared to accept the contract renewal as proposed.

Just two weeks later, Owens announced he would stick to his retirement timeline as planned.

Principal Fall said she plans to remain in Sherman County long term and did intend to consider stepping into the superintendent role someday. However, that timeline was perhaps a little shorter than anticipated, she said.

Members of the board expressed concern about the short timeline the district is facing to fill these administrative roles.

Directors Coelsch and Scott Susi will start working with legal counsel immediately to draft contracts. They will also take steps to post job openings for both a principal and a dean of students position.

The district won’t necessarily plan to hire for both positions, but rather is open to filling one or the other.

Owens said the primary difference between the two positions is that a dean of students may not have an administrator certificate, and any staff member who is certified can potentially serve in that role. A dean of students who does not have an administrative degree cannot evaluate or supervise teachers, but a principal can, Owens said.

Board members agreed that posting for the principal position should happen as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, three of the five Sherman school board members are up for reelection in May.

Running against board chair Paul Bish for Position 5, a four-year term, is James D. Alley.

Running against vice-chair Jeremy Lanthorn for Position 1, a four-year term, are Jesse von Borstel and Bryan Cranston.

Running against Kasey Webber for Position 2, a two-year term, is Seth von Borstel. Webber was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former board chair Jesse Stutzman over the winter.

The countywide election is set for Tuesday, May 16. Directors Susi and Coelsch are not up for reelection this cycle.

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