Buchanan Board of Education narrows superintendent candidates to four

BUCHANAN – Buchanan Board of Education members have narrowed their choice for superintendent from six to four candidates. A second round of interviews is scheduled for next Monday, July 20 with board members meeting the following day to make a selection.

Board members conducted two days of interviews Monday and Tuesday this week, with three interviewed Monday and another three on Tuesday. Members selected four to interview a second time at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting.

Those selected for the second round of interviews are Brian Brown, the River Valley school district business manager, Kelly Gaideski, the St. Joseph school district curriculum director, Mark Kurland, the Buchanan school district executive director of academic services and Patricia Robinson, the former Benton Harbor school district assistant superintendent.

Board members called all six candidates “excellent” and “very good” but declined to call back Dorothy Blackwell and Brandon Waggoner for second interviews. Blackwell is the Vassar school district superintendent, and Waggoner is the Berrien Springs school district assistant superintendent.

Next Monday’s schedule includes a series of informal conversations with the candidates from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. followed by formal interviews with the candidates taking place at the board meeting at 5 p.m. at Buchanan Middle School. The meetings will be virtual for the public with residents able to tune in on YouTube.

Next Tuesday’s meeting will start at 6 p.m. at the middle school. Board members will meet in person while the public will be able to watch and participate virtually. Board members are expected to make their superintendent selection at that meeting.

Michigan Association of School Boards consultant Mark Dobias reported that he will have informal conversations with each candidate starting at noon. The conversations will be streamed so staff and community members can watch.

The schedule for those interviews are Gaideski at 12 p.m., Kurland at 12:30 p.m., Robinson at 1 p.m. and Brown at 1:30 p.m. Board members will also follow that same order in their interviews that evening. The evening interviews are expected to each last 30 minutes.

People can email Dobias at mrdobias@gmail.com with questions they would like the board to ask or use the participation feedback form on the district’s website.

During Tuesday’s interviews, Robinson, Kurland and Gaideski answered more than a dozen questions on everything from their experience with budgets and curriculum to their leadership style and what their goals will be if hired as superintendent.

Robinson noted that she has a native of the area and sees the Buchanan post as the next step in her educational career. She considers communicating as one of her strengths and views her leadership style as collaborative.

“It’s part of my DNA,” she said. “If I’m chosen, I will seek out the different stakeholders to talk about our strengths.”

Kurland also spoke of being an area native and stressed the accomplishments he has had during his 18 years with Buchanan schools. He said his door is always open and called himself an active listener. He said his leadership style is collaborative and empowering staff to do their job.

“My philosophy is to treat people the way you wanted to be treated,” he said. “I always say that there is no I in team.”

Gaideski is a graduate of Buchanan High School and taught in Niles before taking jobs at RESA and St. Joseph. She said she felt compelled to apply for the Buchanan post because her love of learning was nurtured there. She describes her leadership style as servant leadership.

“If hired, listening to stakeholders and finding out what their needs are will be an important first step,” she said.

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