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Callaghan to be new head Red Bird of NCSD

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 11:54 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:03 p.m. CDT

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The next superintendent of the Newton Community School District will be Bob Callaghan, once he’s signed his contract.

The Newton school board met briefly Wednesday night and voted unanimously to offer the position to Callaghan, the current superintendent of the Rogers Independent School District in Rogers, Texas. Paula Wright, superintendent of the Chariton Community School District, was the other finalist.

Callaghan’s first day on the job will be July 1, and he will be paid $160,000 a year. He currently makes $93,000 a year at the small, rural Texas school district.

Before the votes were even read, Callaghan had received glowing reviews from the board.

“I feel like we would be very fortunate to have either candidate,” Donna Cook said. “Personally, I advocate for Bob Callaghan as our next superintendent, based on his outstanding leadership and his visibility.”

“I would say his qualities in both relationship-building and that he is very meticulous in his attention to policy, to details and to educational quality for our kids,” Cook continued.  “I think he has a lot of good experience, and I think that experience will benefit our district.”

Dennis Combs, who grew up with outgoing superintendent Steve McDermott and was influential in bringing him to Newton, admitted Callaghan eventually won him over, as well.

“I think it was an amazing performance too,” Combs said. “(Considering) what we put him through, with all the focus groups and the (amount of) time with those entire days of touring buildings and things like that.”

“His ability to continue to shine, I kept waiting to see how he would react once he got tired and grumpy, but I think he can handle a pretty big load, he kept going,” Combs continued.  “I was amazed that at 8:30 (p.m.) when we dealt with him, that he was still there and was working. That was pretty dog-gone impressive.”

Don Poynter mentioned that he felt the district would have been in capable hands with either candidate, but wound up also favoring Callaghan.

“I tried to keep an emotional connection out of my decision,” Poynter said. “I think we need to move ahead with learning. We have gone pretty far and we need to keep going. I think that he expressed that direction very clearly.”

The district’s process of finding Callaghan began with the hiring of the Gaylord Tryon and Associates search firm on March 12. In that meeting, company founder and president Gaylord Tryon said that if his firm was hired they would live up the district’s expectations and make the search easier for the district and that they “worked for the board.”

After the hiring of Tryon’s firm, the district created a leadership profile to help the firm find suitable candidates. From there, the firm used a vetting process:  sorting through résumés, performing background checks, screening references and making sure candidates fit the leadership profile.

That process whittled it down to 11 “qualified” candidates. From those 11 candidates, the board selected five of them to interview; however, one was hired by another district. The remaining candidates then interviewed with the board and a focus group and were once again compared to the leadership profile. From there, the field was narrowed to Wright and Callaghan.

On Monday, the board and the focus group interviewed Callaghan and then did the same with Wright on Tuesday. After that, it was once again checked to see if the candidates still matched the district’s leadership profile.

“I think our community did a nice job,” Cook said regarding the process. “Our teachers and our support staff, in asking the tough questions, they really put him on the spot. (This) really let us get to know (him) and who we were looking at and (allowed) them to give their input, which was really valuable.”

The board credited Tryon’s firm for keeping them on task and focused and noted that they were very instrumental in the search. Board President Andy Elbert said, “They made the process very easy.”

Tryon himself was present at the meeting and called Callaghan after adjournment to tell him of the offer.  The board applauded and was all smiles as he walked back in the room and said:

“You’ve just hired a superintendant.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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