Buchanan interviews final three superintendent candidates

BUCHANAN – Second round interviews with three superintendent candidate finalists were conducted Monday night by Buchanan Board of Education members. Board members are scheduled to make their final pick at a special board meeting Tuesday.

Those interviewed Monday were current Buchanan Executive Director of Academic Services Mark Kurland, former Benton Harbor Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson and current River Valley Business Manager Brian Brown.

Kelly Gaideski, a Buchanan native and the current St. Joseph curriculum director, had been scheduled to be interviewed but withdrew her name from consideration. A total of 23 people applied for the position.

Monday’s second round interviews came after an afternoon of informal conversations earlier Monday with the three candidates. Board members also spent time last week conducting reference checks on the finalists before the second-round interviews.

Kurland was the first to be interviewed. He has spent much of his career in Buchanan including 17 years at the middle school.

“As a new superintendent, it would be a little easier for me because I’ve been on the inside,” he said when asked how he would transition to superintendent if chosen.

He said he would not only rely on the established relationships he has with district administrators and staff but also look to other area superintendents to serve as his mentors.

“If I don’t have the answer, I will find it,” he said. “I have the ability to see the big picture and think outside of the box.”

“Being superintendent is stepping up to the next level and making sure the entire district is communicating the same vision,” he added. “I always go back to whether we’re doing what’s in the best interests of the students. If you have great people in place, let them do what they need to do.”

Robinson said she would be honored to be the first woman of color to serve as superintendent. “It would be an honor to serve as the first African American superintendent,” she said. “Within any community, you have to build relationships. I’m very comfortable talking about race and this is a very good time to bring it out in the open and dispel fears.”

She said one of her first steps if chosen will be to heal the district and the community.

“I have an entry plan and one of the first things I’ll do is listen to the staff and talk about what divides us,” she said. “It’s important for the staff to have a platform to speak their truth and what they’re feeling. We need to address issues systematically.”

“What I bring to Buchanan is my passion for kids and being able to be a leader in buildings,” she added. “I saw the potential here today, I saw the passion of the staff and their love for the community. I can see this district having blue ribbon schools and being recognized nationally. There’s a lot of excitement here.”

 

Like Kurland, Brown is no stranger to Buchanan. He spent 14 years in the district as an elementary teacher before leaving to become the business manager in River Valley.

“I want Buchanan to be a place where people want to live and work, that’s the culture I want to bring,” he said. “I want to continue the progress we made academically.”

He thinks he will be able to make the transition to superintendent. “It’s always a learning curve,” he said. “What was very helpful to me when I became business manager was the network of business managers who said they would help me in any way. Sometimes you need a network if you don’t have the knowledge.”

Like Kurland, he said he sees his familiarity with the district as a strength.

“I do know an awful lot of people here, I think that’s a strength,” he said. “When you know people and have respect for them and them for you, that’s a great place to start. … I feel I have the experience, desire and passion to be superintendent.”

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