FCSD #1 superintendent candidate forums concluded Tuesday night; learn more about each candidate

    (Lander, WY) – (Lander, WY) – After a search for a new Fremont County School District (FCSD) #1 superintendent was recently announced, three candidates were later declared on the FCSD #1 website, including Michael Harris, Dallas Myers and Deidre Meyer.

    Public forums were then scheduled for the candidates on February 7, 9 and 14, where they each fielded a series questions from moderators Bill Lee and Jennifer Butler, which were chosen from over 200 questions from parent, school board, student and staff input.

    The forums lasted about an hour, and candidates were asked the following questions (each question has a portion of the candidate’s answers; their full responses are in the video links at the bottom of the article):


    What is your management style and how involved in decision making will you be with responsibilities that have been delegated to your administrators?

    • Harris: “My philosophy of leadership, is you lead by example. You don’t ask people to do things that you don’t believe in yourself, and that you’re not willing to do yourself,” Harris commented, adding that “establishing priorities” will also be key. As for decision making delegation, Harris stated that will often be dependent on the situation, but for the most part he will aim to “trust administrators,” and be there to advise when necessary.
    • Myers: “My management style is very transparent and open,” Myers opened, adding “I focus on people, I’m a person centered leader.’ Myers went on to say he wants to combine community input as well direction from the school board to make the best decisions possible. “I’m a really good decision maker, if I have an understanding, and a part of gaining that understanding is being a good listener, and understanding where that person is coming from.”
    • Meyer: Meyer stated that she used to describe her style as “transformative,” making sure people are “transforming” into the best version of themselves, but has since made collaboration her focus. She stated her roles as both Principal and Vice Principal at different schools helped foster that collaborative mentality. Meyer said that collaboration will hopefully lead to unity among administrators, the board and the community.

    How will you ensure effective communication between the board, district staff, administration, and community?

    • Harris: Harris commented that “two way communication” will be key, along with hearing regularly from stakeholders, and not just “sending out” superintendent information notices when they come along. He stated that he wants to be a “very visible” superintendent to help foster that two way communication, which he says he has already had experience doing as the current Student Services Director.
    • Myers: Myers commented that when developing the school board goals, input from stakeholders will be key, as well as having the “difficult conversations.” Myers also cited his experience as both a school Principal and a Central Office Administrator, where they drafted goals based on input from the board, administrators, staff and members of the community.
    • Meyer: “I like to have everybody’s feedback,” Meyer stated. Prioritizing consistent and unified communication will be key Meyer commented, stating that after school board meetings she will regularly meet with the chair, vice-chair and family liaison so they can collaborate on the messages that go out. “It can’t be done with the district alone. We need to have our community as partners,” she went on to comment, citing her experience in that area as curriculum director.

    How do you plan to navigate the polarized political climate to prioritize student’s educational needs?

    • Harris: Harris stated that as is, the district’s mission, vision and values are “apolitical,” and that “ensuring that every student learns at high levels,” should be something everyone should be able to get behind. Those “apolitical” values that Harris said will be stressed, are “Acceptance, achievement, accountability, engagement, integrity and innovation.”
    • Myers: “I don’t think disagreement is a bad thing,” Myers said, adding that despite any differences in beliefs, his goal is to remain “kid centered in all things.” Myers then went on to praise the school board for the volunteers it’s made up of, saying that other districts have a hard time even getting people to be on the board. He also stressed the importance of finding the “middle of the road” with the board and the community.
    • Meyer: Focusing on social, emotional and academic needs of the students will be key according to Meyer. “In order to do that I want to be honest and transparent,” Meyer went on to say, as well as forming a “united front” with the school board to ensure the needs of the strategic plan are met. “Politics aside, students first.”

    Students and parents expressed concerns regarding the learning environment in our district, with an emphasis surrounding harassment and bullying. How will you address bullying and harassment problems in our district between students, between students and staff, and between the staff?

    • Harris: Harris cited the district values once more, adding that bullying and harassment do not align with those values, and “will not be tolerated.” “Those are huge priority issues,” Harris went on to say. “I would ensure that we have a culture that accepts and values everyone.”
    • Myers: Creating a culture of kindness and “having faith that people are going to do the right thing” plays a part in how Myers plans to address these concerns. “It starts with us as adults.” Myers stated that he would utilize the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) models that he witnessed already in place in the district while touring the schools.
    • Meyer: Defining bullying and harassment on a community level, and helping stakeholders understand those issues will be the main goal. Meyer stated that her and other curriculum directors are also already working together to plan county-wide speakers to come and talk to students to combat these issues.

    Discuss your understanding of Standards Based Learning and how it impacts students learning and preparation for life after high school. How will you effectively communicate to families why you believe Standards Based Learning is the most effective model for student learning in Lander schools? If you don’t believe in the Standards Based Learning model, which model do you prefer and why do you think it is the best way forward for Lander schools?

    • Harris: “I think there’s some confusion about standards, and where they come from,” Harris began, before adding that FCSD #1’s standards come from the Wyoming State Board of Education, with stakeholder input. The difficulty with Standards Based Grading right now in FCSD #1, Harris states, is “implementation from school to school, from class to class,” adding that uniformity on implementation and reporting will be key.
    • Myers: Myers commented that House Bill 176 is currently looking at “refining” the standards that districts will use in the state, which combined with the Governor’s Reimagining and Innovating the Delivery of Education (RIDE) initiative, and the Profile of a Graduate program, will “force us probably, to relook at standards and how we do things.” He also went on to discuss the importance of focusing on both standards based learning, and standards based reporting.
    • Meyer: Meyer stated that her knowledge of standards based grading is “very deep,” adding that she was a standards based learning teacher even before it was a common practice. She then discussed “soft skills” such as turning assignments in on time. “I am definitely a proponent of not tying behavior and soft skills to grades.’ Meyer also commented on the importance of making sure parents and stakeholders have a clear understanding of the grading system, through things like parental advisory groups. “The WDE standard definition of performance standards which is state mandated and where we’re going, states that ‘districts have the responsibility to ensure that every student in their district assessment system has multiple chances to learn the standards,'” Meyer concluded, adding that FCSD #1 is already “ahead of the curve” in that regard.

    How do you intend to support our most vulnerable students in the district through the Special Education programs while simultaneously engaging our high performing students too?

    • Harris: Harris commented that one of the main goals of the District’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) is addressing this same issue. A true PLC approach, Harris states, will utilize differentiation to teach students at “high levels” for every kid. In his role as Student Services Director, Harris stated one of the key components is working with students with special needs, which is addressed by providing individualized and specialized instruction. “I don’t think the target for instruction is proficiency, I think the target for instruction is advanced and beyond. Sometimes we aim too low.”
    • Myers: Myers also referenced the PLC’s in place in the district, and the importance of exposing special education students to the general education curriculum.
    • Meyer: “My goal as superintendent is to make sure that we have 80% or higher of all students in the tier one setting as proficient,” Meyer said, adding that “studies do show that when general education students increase in achievement,” special education student achievement increases at the same time. Separating special education students from the general education setting will not be beneficial, according to Meyer. As for high achieving students, Meyer stated that utilizing enrichment, tiered instruction and support systems is key to success.

    How would you help teachers manage the wide variety of learning challenges within a classroom?

    • Harris: Harris stated that addressing this concern is another advantage to the PLC approach, where “it’s not all on the shoulders of one individual teacher to meet the very diverse needs of every student in the classroom.” Harris added that “shooting for the middle” is “not going to cut it.”
    • Myers: (Question not asked at this forum)
    • Meyer: “If we beef up our tier one and get everybody at 80% or higher, we’re not going to have that issue,” Meyer commented, adding that focusing on literacy will be necessary. Meyer added that the district received a literacy grant two years ago is already helping with this. “Our math and science scores will not continue to increase if our kids are not reading.”

    Schools have been faced with more threats of harm to students and faculty nationally. What experience have you had developing policy to help keep our students and staff from internal and external threats? What experiences have you had dealing with these threats?

    • Harris: Harris shared a personal story of a confrontation with a man who entered the grounds of an elementary school he was working at in Hot Springs County, an incident he said “changed his perspective” on the need for school safety, but added that “going overboard” would be avoided.
    • Myers: Myers commented that following the Uvalde school shooting in Texas, there has since been more training between law enforcement and armed teachers/staff, which changed his mind on conceal and carry for teachers.
    • Meyer: Meyer also shared a personal story of dealing with a situation involving a student who brought a gun in the classroom while teaching in Montana. Meyer went on to describe the problem solving that went into that situation and the emotional impact it had on her. This experience helped Meyer realize the importance of making sure the appropriate information gets out to parents during these traumatic incidents, and differentiating what can and can’t go out for student safety.

    What strategies will you employ to support the mental health needs of our students and staff in our schools? Alcohol and substance use is a significant issue in our schools and community. What strategies would you promote to reduce the impact this issue is having on our students?

    • Harris: “First we have to recognize that there is a problem,” Harris stated, saying that the issue is not just in schools, but in the community as well. “Schools can’t really tackle this on their own,” Harris commented, adding that reaching out to professionals in the field will be key. The district’s Project Aware grant will also be utilized to help in the education of substance abuse issues.
    • Myers: “When it comes to substance abuse and mental health issues, a lot of people live in denial,” Myers said, adding the need to rid the stigmas of “weakness” associated with both. Myers also cited providing support, therapy dogs, and tele-therapy as potential resources.
    • Meyer: “We’re not dealing with kids that are just using anymore, we’re dealing with addicted students,” Meyer stated, adding that the community needs more awareness about the dangerous and synthetic drugs students are currently using. “The school district cannot do it all,” Meyer went on to say. “This is a community issue, a state issue and a national issue.” “The kids are coming to us addicted.”

    How will you weave parent partnerships into the educational fabric so they feel empowered as stakeholders and are aware of how their actions, or lack of engagement, impact their children’s learning and the ability of staff to effectively deliver instruction?

    • Harris: Harris referenced his background in special education, where there is already constant communication with parents, which he would bring to the superintendent role. “Opening up the lanes for two way communication,” would be a focus for Harris, who said that regular “open office hours” would be an option to assist in that regard. “I will share information regularly, but also take information regularly.”
    • Myers: “Face to face conversations are important for families and communities and stakeholders, where they can have actual input and participate in the process,” Myers said before citing recent examples of times when he spoke with parents to hear things from their perspective. “Parents and community are a part of the solution.”
    • Meyer: Meyer said that supporting and educating parents on how to be engaged will be important, adding that utilizing everything from social media, news outlets and parent engagement groups will be looked into.

    What will you do to retain highly qualified teachers despite the local and national trends in teacher shortages and an increase in teachers leaving the profession? What would you like to see the district do to reverse this trend?

    • Harris: Harris shared that “being passive” about how to retain teachers will not be an option, citing working with UW and attending regular job fairs to actively look for candidates. Looking into a mentorship program for new educators in the district will also be an option, along with potential perks and rewards from community partners to recognize teachers accomplishments.
    • Myers: Myers commented that in the past he helped set up scholarships for classified staff that wanted to become teachers, and for teachers who wanted to switch fields or age groups.
    • Meyer: Meyer stated that she will focus on “making sure we support our educators,” and ensuring their success in teaching tier one.

    Technology is a necessary part of the world we live in, and it is an essential part of our students’ education to prepare them to thrive outside of the school setting. However there are many concerns surrounding appropriate use of technology. As superintendent, how will you drive the use of technology within our district as an asset to our students’ education and minimize technology distractions in the learning environment?

    • Harris: Harris stated that while ubiquitous, technology can be a distraction, and that the district and technology department currently does what they can to limit access to or restrict sites for the Chromebooks all students use. Harris also referenced consistent cellphone use expectations and repurcussions district-wide.
    • Myers: “COVID really opened our eyes to technology. We were forced on the spot to maybe do things we should have been doing years ago,” Myers stated. “In education, technology is a tool, and we have to refine that in a means that makes it usable in application, versus just acquiring knowledge, and being able to commit rote things to memory.”
    • Meyer: “Technology should be that supplemental support of learning,” Meyer commented, adding that finding a balance will be key. Meyer also said that keeping in mind that many forms of technology will be soon outdated, which will need to be taken into consideration as well in terms of students overall learning experience.

    What do you see as some strengths currently within our district, and what are some areas of improvement that you would like to work on as the superintendent?

    • Harris: Harris cited the “opportunities for different types of learning” the district already provides as a strength, along with the range of activities offered to students, and the high quality of educators already in the area. As for areas of improvement, Harris said that “consistency across schools,” will help, along with having competitive compensation and health benefit packages for employees, and more consistent communication.
    • Myers: Myers cited the academics, and once again praised the school board and their “vested interest in this community.” He also commented that the district is “headed in the right direction” in terms of addressing mental health. “We need focus and discipline to keep our eye on the big things that matter most for our kids,’ he added, as well focusing on having direction to help avoid infighting.
    • Meyer: “What’s happening in these buildings with our kids is phenomenal,” Meyer commented on the critical thinking and vocabulary development she has seen students display. “Kids are expressing themselves quite eloquently,” Meyer added, also citing student engagement and highly qualified educators as additional strengths. As for improvement, Meyer said the district needs “to make our tier one more robust,” as well as refining district goals with board, administrator and community involvement.

    Why are you the most qualified candidate for this position at this time and in this particular place? What is your vision for our district?

    • Harris: “I don’t want to be a superintendent just somewhere, this is the only superintendent job I would consider because this is my home,” Harris commented, stating that his ties to Lander are a considerable qualification. Harris also added that he is truly committed to the values the district already operates by, and will make sure those values are consistently referenced among staff.
    • Myers: “I’m willing to do things and have conversations that most people won’t,” commented Myers. “From all the things that I’ve heard, ultimately that is the big thing that has to happen.” He also cited his years of experience and his past role as Director of Student Services, where he gained experience facilitating those types of difficult conversations.
    • Meyer: “I have been in every facet, besides driving a bus, for this district,” Meyer said, citing her experience as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and instructional facilitator in Fremont County. “I want to have the ability to say this is where we’re going, this is our vision, and this is how we’re going to get there.”

    The recordings of each forum can be viewed in the links provided below.

    Following each forum, the candidates were interviewed by the FCSD #1 school board.

    FCSD #1 also shared that the public is invited to fill out a feedback form, which will close on February 17th at midnight.

    All feedback will then be sent to the board for their consideration at their meeting on February 21st.


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