One day later, trustees voted to invite Dennis to interview for the job, effectively making him the sole candidate to succeed Coberly.
Thursday, interview day, started early.
At 7:40 a.m., trustees voted unanimously to interview Dennis in a closed executive session. (State open meetings law allows public agencies to discuss personnel matters in a closed session.)
The closed meeting broke up at 9:20 a.m., leaving trustees with one brief, public task: to vote to offer Dennis the job.
“You have an intimate knowledge of all of our programs,” veteran trustee Maria Greeley said. “You are a leader. You’ve been a leader.”
A superintendent’s job is to put the needs of children first, said trustee David Wagers. In Boise’s case, that means considering the needs of more than 25,000 students. “You are the best guy that I know to do that.”
A rapid, insulated process
All seven trustees took turns praising Dennis. When it came time to vote on his hire, Beth Oppenheimer moved to offer the job to Dennis, and Dennis Doan seconded the motion. That was noteworthy. A week earlier, Doan and Oppenheimer pushed their colleagues to open the job search to external candidates — a move that failed on a 5-2 vote.
The timeline came up briefly before Thursday’s vote. Doan — who last week said his criticism was focused on process, and not directed at Dennis — said it was time to move on. Board President Nancy Gregory again defended the district’s approach. “I’m happy to have arrived at this point.”
Boise’s rapid, insulated hiring process marks a departure from recent job searches in West Ada, Idaho’s largest school district, and Nampa, the state’s third-largest district. In both cases, trustees built public question-and-answer sessions into the interview process — and in both cases, trustees hired external candidates.
In an interview after his hiring, Dennis deflected a question about the process. “People elect the board as their representatives to make those kind of decisions.”
But Dennis acknowledged that he needs to reach out to the community in his new role, and said he’s looking forward to it.
“Dr. Coberly has been the face of this district for close to a decade,” Dennis said.
A second-generation superintendent
Dennis is no stranger to many Boise patrons; he began in the district in 1991 as a teacher. And the Dennis family is well-known in Boise education circles.
Dennis’ father, Dehryl Dennis, came to Boise schools in 1976 as human resources director, and was superintendent from 1994 to 1999. Coby Dennis credited his father with helping to lay the groundwork for several important district policies — such as hiring additional teachers, above the numbers covered by state appropriations; and an “interest-based” approach to labor negotiations that remains in place. Today, the district’s technical center bears the former superintendent’s name.
But in accepting his new job — in front of a small audience that included his mother, his wife, other family members and district staffers, including Coberly — Coby Dennis said his mother inspired him to go into education.
As he explained later, Dennis was a semester away from graduating from college with a degree in electrical engineering. He told his mother he wasn’t happy with his career path, and wanted to teach and coach instead. He went back to college, and at his mother’s urging, he switched majors.
A year and a half later, he graduated, and was ready to begin his career in education.
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