And then there were two.
The finalists for Spokane Public Schools superintendent have roots in Washington, reputations for making tough decisions and enthusiasm about taking the helm in Spokane.
“As I’ve moved through my career, the one job at the top of my wish list was District 81,” said Shelley Redinger, superintendent of Spotsylvania County Schools in Fredericksburg, Va., a district of 23,844 students. “I was excited when I saw that it opened.”
Alexander Apostle, who leads Missoula County Public Schools, with 8,750 students, said he sees Spokane Public Schools “in terms of where it’s at today, as the best superintendency in the state.”
Apostle, 64, was born and raised in Tacoma, where he also spent a majority of his career as a teacher and administrator. He’s also worked in the Issaquah, Sedro-Woolley and Finley school districts in Washington.
Apostle has been at the helm in Missoula since 2008.
A recent Missoulian newspaper feature on the administrator listed his accomplishments since arriving at the district: He has replaced 15 of 17 principals within the district during his tenure, mostly through reorganization and attrition; he implemented more-frequent staff evaluations; and he developed an International Baccalaureate program and a high school health sciences academy. He’s also been lauded for his work instituting a dropout prevention program called Graduation Matters.
Additionally, Apostle has a reputation for his accessibility. He has regular office hours for the community as well as a monthly program called Soup’s On, where he meets with a group of 12 to 14 people to chat.
“In a city like Spokane, I would increase my availability,” he said.
Apostle, 64, said he has no desire to retire.
“I think I’m at my prime. I think I’m the strongest I’ve ever been,” he said. “I believe I have a great deal left to contribute to education. I have the skills and expertise to move the district forward and to make sure the students have the ability to move on after high school.”
While Apostle has spent most of his career in Western Washington, Redinger spent a large portion of hers in Eastern Washington.
The 44-year-old was born in Spokane, where she went to school through the fourth grade, then moved to Chewelah, where she graduated from high school.
She’s been an administrator and teacher in the Richland School District as well as a few South Carolina school districts. She was superintendent in the Oregon Trail School District in Sandy, Ore., for four years.
Although she’s only been in her current position for one year, Redinger said, “I read the desired characteristics (for Spokane’s position), and I knew I had to apply.” Specifically, “visibility, someone who wants to be a part of the community – that’s something that I really believe in: honesty and integrity and instructional leadership.”
Redinger has been working in education for 21 years.
“Everyone is tightening their belts, and administration was one area I was looking at, and I streamlined some of our positions, which resulted in $1 million savings,” she said of cost-cutting efforts in her current position. “You have to be real strategic and thoughtful. Some of it can be done through attrition and reorganizing. I feel really strongly about putting resources into the classrooms.”
She also supports the idea of decentralized power.
“If everything feels like it’s coming from the top down, people can get disenfranchised. If they are a part of the decision making, I think that energizes people.”