Spokane Public Schools’ superintendent finalists – Shelley Redinger and Alexander Apostle – were in town this week, where community leaders, area residents and district employees grilled them about their past and plied them for hints about their leadership style should they become the district’s next leader.
More than 100 community members attended one or both of the forums held Wednesday and Thursday at Spokane middle schools.
Redinger, 44, is superintendent of Spotsylvania County Schools in Fredericksburg, Va., a district of 23,844 students. Apostle, 64, leads Missoula County Public Schools, with 8,750 students.
Both candidates are Washington natives and have backgrounds in teaching. One of them will replace Superintendent Nancy Stowell.
The search to identify who might be the best person for the state’s second-largest district began in January. Twenty-two people applied. About two weeks ago, the school board named Redinger and Apostle as finalists.
The following are the candidates’ answers to the most common questions that came up throughout their daylong interviews in Spokane:
Redinger: “I think it’s really important to be proactive … principals need to take the lead for teachers. Have good reporting opportunities for students. There also needs to be programs that reward good behavior.”
Apostle: “A no-tolerance policy is absolutely necessary. If you don’t have a safe and secure environment, students are not going to succeed.”
Redinger: “I would plan to have a lot of conversations on the issue, math wars. Find out: What are we struggling with? What are we preparing our students for, what outcome? We want to make sure our students can compete.”
Apostle: “We need to continue to challenge our kids in math. We need to make sure our kids can not only compete, but win.”
Why Spokane Public Schools?
Redinger: “My parents and brother live here. I grew up in this area. Spokane Public Schools was at the top of my wish list. It is a place where I believe I can make a difference.”
Apostle: “The potential in Spokane is unbelievable. Spokane Public Schools is the best superintendency in the state, in the country. I believe I can move Spokane schools to a place they’ve never been.”
Longevity in the district
Redinger: She would want to stay with the district at least nine years, so her third-grade son can finish school before moving again, she said. She’s only been in Fredericksburg for a year and was in Oregon for four years before that.
Apostle: “I have no finish line,” he said. However, he has retired once. But he came out of retirement to take the job in Missoula. “I’m passionate about this for all the right reasons. I don’t want to retire.”
Redinger: “Work together at all levels with our community to help our students. Hone in and focus on what we need to do.”
Apostle: It “needs to be clear to everyone that every student matters. There needs to be a 100 percent graduation rate. We get everyone involved in making sure every kid graduates.”
Redinger: She’s a “huge” supporter of early learning, making sure kids are prepared when they enter kindergarten, she said.
Apostle: He wants dropout prevention at all grade levels, he said.
Redinger: “I believe in a real balance of centralized and decentralized decision making. I believe parents, principals and staff, all need to be involved in making decisions – they are the closest to the children.”
Apostle: “Relationships are important. We need to lead from the center. The last thing you want to do is make changes without knowing the system.”