West Ada trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to hire Mary Ann Ranells as the district’s next superintendent.
Details of the contract have yet to be worked out, but Ranells said she plans to begin work the first week of January.
She said trustees have asked her to do an analysis of the district’s strengths and weaknesses.
Ranells, a former superintendent at Lakeland School District in North Idaho and deputy superintendent of the State Department of Education, was the first publicly identified candidate under consideration to replace Linda Clark, who left the district in October and was fired in November by the board, which said it never accepted her resignation.
The board held an executive session and then announced its decision late Tuesday after the second of two public forums for the candidate to meet the community. Trustees would not say how many applications they received for the job.
Ranells spent the past two days touring the district and meeting with trustees, staff and students.
If the contract is finalized, Ranells will step into a fractured district where trustee recall efforts are underway over the trustees’ acrimony with Clark.
Ranells said none of that gives her second thoughts about the job.
“I am not worried about that ... My focus is on learning,” she said. “That is where we are going to spend our time and energy.
“Our focus is making sure our kids are safe, that they feel loved, and that they are challenged and receiving the very best education possible.”
She praised West Ada for its caring employees and commitment to providing a good education.
“The support of the community for this school system — you just don’t see it everywhere you go,” she said at Tuesday’s forum.
During public sessions with educators and parents Monday and Tuesday, each attended by about 30 people, Ranells fielded questions about the district.
She said that the trustees asked her in interviews about her expectations for the district. She told them that learning would be her focus: “The job of the superintendent is to run the schools.”
When asked how she would hold teachers and principals accountable in ways other than assessments and job evaluations, Ranells said a good indicator of a well-functioning system is happy children.
“If they are not happy, we usually hear about it,” Ranells said. When children are happy, they thrive, she said.
Other comments from Ranells:
Student achievement: “Focus on learning. What do we want our students to know, do and understand? How do we know they know? How will we respond if they don’t learn? How will we respond if they do learn.”
Class sizes: “That doesn’t make sense to me to have 25 children in a kindergarten. It is educational malpractice in my opinion. I apologize to you for having that kind of challenge,” she said to teacher Lisa Leach, who has taught kindergarten or first grade for 19 years.
Arts in schools: “You cannot have a well-educated person without the arts.” Ranells said she plays the clarinet, oboe, English horn and guitar.