After intense scrutiny by the Wyoming School Boards Assoc. (WSBA) and a long day of interviews by local school administrators, staff, teachers, community members and school board members, Dr. Rick Woodford was offered the position of superintendent of schools for Big Horn County School District No. 2 by its board of trustees. Woodford has accepted the position and will officially start his new job on July 1.
Woodford, who is currently the principal at Star Valley High School, beat out candidates Keith Harris and Eric Pingrey, who went through an identical interview process last week. The decision was finalized in a special school board meeting held on Tuesday night, where Woodford was selected by unanimous vote to head the school district. He will replace retiring superintendent Dan Coe.
Woodford began his career in the field of education with seven years as a teacher at Logan High School, in Logan, Utah. He then moved to Star Valley, where he was the special education director for 12 years. In addition to his role as special education director, Woodford coordinated the gifted education program. He also developed and opened an alternative high school in Afton in his first year with the district. He was principal of that school for eight years. Once the school surpassed an enrollment of 40 students, the district hired a full-time principal so Woodford could return his focus to special services.
During that period of time, Woodford went back to school in his spare time to work on his doctorate degree. He worked for three years on the degree and eventually finished his dissertation.
“Every time I’ve extended my education and learning, I’ve had a burning desire to apply the things that I’ve learned,” said Woodford at a special public meeting held last week at Lovell Middle School. “When you get your doctorate in educational leadership, it’s basically an advanced training program in how to be a superintendent and so naturally there are things I haven’t been able to do in my current position, which leaves me with the burning desire to apply some of those principles that take my leadership to a broader level where I can impact the lives of our children.”
Woodford said he and his wife Jennifer and children plan to make Lovell their new home. Married for 23 years, the couple has five children of their own and adopted two other children about three years ago. Their oldest son Tyson returned home from a mission in Spain within the last few weeks. Their daughter Jessica is a senior in high school who, upon graduation, will attend Weber State University on a soccer scholarship. The remaining five children (currently attending grades 1 through 8) will attend Lovell schools.
“We drove through this area on our way to Sheridan recently, through the Big Horns,” he said. “It was a beautiful drive.
“This community struck our curiosity. We’d heard a lot about it. There are a lot of ties between Star Valley and Lovell actually. So when the position came open, the timing and everything really seemed right for us.”
Board Chairman Bruce Jolley said the Woodfords were so excited about the community that they spent a few extra days exploring the community after his interview.
“This is a great community and we want our kids in excellent schools and in an excellent community that shares the same kind of values that we have. We believe that Lovell is one of the few communities in Wyoming that meets that goal for our family,” said Woodford.
During the public interview Woodford demonstrated his depth of knowledge of all aspects of school administration from the intricacies of the Picus formula used in Wyoming to fund schools to the issues surrounding the common core, which drives the curriculum of schools in the state.
He said his management style is one of collaboration, sharing information and bringing people together to make positive things happen for students. He said he welcomes community input.
“I’m not a top down guy; that’s not my leadership and management style,” said Woodford. “I really believe in a theory called transformational leadership, which is about collaborating and getting people involved in the leadership process. I have a real firm belief in public education. I love the public education process and I really believe that if it’s done right, with fidelity to the way it was intended, it is a great system. That includes involving the public in the decision-making process and being transparent.”
Woodford’s initial contract will be for one year, starting July 1, 2014, and ending June 30, 2015. Jolley said he has asked Woodford to put together a transition plan.
“I think it will be wise for him to spend some days with Dan (Coe) before Dan leaves,” said Jolley. “I would think he would want to visit with his principals, too, before they leave for the summer.”
The board voted to pay Woodford a daily rate for this additional work prior to his official start date of July 1.
Jolley said Woodford seemed very excited when he offered him the job and was very humble in his acceptance of the position. Jolley said Woodford expressed that he was excited to bring his family into the community.
Jolley said all of the other candidates who applied for the job have been informed of the decision. He said it was a difficult decision to choose from so many top-notch candidates.
Board member Judy Richards said all of the candidates who participated in the interviews were very complimentary about the schools, staff and students. Jolley added that all of candidates said they liked the way the board involved the school staff and the community in the interviewing process.
Several board members praised the work of the WSBA for their help with the interviewing process. Richards agreed that their involvement was worthwhile and saved the board a lot of time.
Jolley added that Woodford would initially be displaced from his office, which will be in the throws of a remodel upon his arrival.
“He said he doesn’t mind, he’s just excited to come and to be a part of our community and we’re excited to have him,” said Jolley.
by Patti Carpenter