Big Horn School District No. 1 has interviewed two potential candidates to replace departing Supt. Sean Hocker– both with history in District One.
The candidates are Ben Smith, currently the principal of Big Horn High School near Sheridan, and Matt Davidson, who serves as the principal of Burlington schools.
The district will be looking to hire one of the two as their full-time superintendent, foregoing considerations to hire an interim superintendent.
“With the quality of the candidates we found, the board as a whole decided it was best to hire a full-time position,” school board chair Koleen Sponsel said.
Both candidates were interviewed in a closed executive session Monday, and a decision will be made during the board’s regular meeting Thursday.
Ben Smith started his career in education in Big Horn School District No. 1, where he served as a teacher and as the football coach. In his last four years he was promoted to an elementary school principal.
“I had a great foundation for my career there,” Smith said.
Afterwards he moved to Ogden, Utah, working as the principal of Ben Lomond High School.
Ten years later he moved back to Wyoming, where he spent time as the principal of Pinedale High School, before spending the last 10 years at Big Horn.
Smith said he was not actively looking to move up to a superintendent role. Rather, it’s his connection to the district that spurs his interest.
His goal for the district is to continue the work it is already doing. It’s important the district continues to focus on a growth mindset and create students who are capable and ready to succeed, he said.
“We need to prepare our students so they’re ready for post-secondary transition,” Smith said. “At each checkpoint students need to have the skills to advance.”
Davidson began his teaching career in Laramie, and later taught in Ten Sleep. For the past 20 years he has been a K-12 principal for Burlington. He also served seven years as the district’s curriculum director, Reading First coordinator and federal programs manager.
Davidson also stressed creating and maintaining a growth mindset in the district for both students and staff. Every person should feel valued and have his or her contributions celebrated, Davidson said.
“Students must be at the heart of all we do. Starting in preschool, we should be preparing students for success at the next level…” Davidson said. “I would like to see additional focus on growth domains that are not measured by standardized tests such as social, emotional, and citizenship development. To find success in their future, young people will need to be able to adapt, navigate change, utilize technology efficiently, collaborate with others, solve problems, make informed decisions and contribute in their communities and careers.”
Hocker has been superintendent for District One for 11 years, managing six schools that educate more than 1,000 students. As superintendent for the district he has overseen the construction of several major school improvement projects, including the building of Rocky Mountain Middle/High School and the remodeling of
the district’s administration building. In 2016, he was recognized as the Wyoming Superintendent of the Year.
By Ryan Fitzmaurice