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Canyons district names three superintendent finalists

Published March 31, 2014 1:58 pm

Education • Two candidates from Utah, one from Illinois.
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Canyons School District leaders announced Monday three finalists for the job of superintendent, including two Utah educators and one from outside the state.

Finalists include James Briscoe, superintendent of DeKalb Community Unit School District No. 428 in DeKalb, Ill.; Craig Hammer, executive director of secondary schools, Washington County School District in St. George; and Kathryn McCarrie, assistant superintendent and chief performance officer for the Canyons School District.

The Canyons board chose the three finalists after three days of interviews with candidates from across the nation. The board plans to conduct additional interviews with the finalists before choosing a new superintendent to begin work July 1. Whomever the board chooses will take the spot left open by the district's first superintendent David Doty, who resigned in June to lead an education reform organization.

All three candidates represent a departure for the district in that they're all career K-12 educators. Doty followed a somewhat non-traditional route to the top spot in Canyons, coming from a higher education and law background.

"We did an extensive survey, and the public told us they wanted someone with an educational background," said board vice president Steve Wrigley of the current selection process.

As superintendent, Doty became known for his vocal communication style and faced both criticism and praise for how he managed the new district. The district serves more than 33,600 students.

Board president Sherril Taylor said in a statement Monday that board members are confident about the skills and talents of the three finalists.

"As a board, we have been duly and thoroughly impressed with the quality of the candidates," Taylor said. "It truly was a challenge to narrow the list to just three finalists."

Briscoe, who earned his doctorate of education at Northern Illinois University, has headed the 6,200-student DeKalb district for six years. Hammer, who got his master's degree in education at the University of Utah, has worked for seven years as the executive director of secondary schools for the 28,000-student Washington County district in southern Utah. And McCarrie, who holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Utah, has been an assistant superintendent in Canyons since 2011.

Briscoe said Monday he's excited about being named a finalist. He said part of the reason he applied was because: "I was very impressed when I reviewed the process and work that went into creating the new school district. To me, the people involved should be extremely proud of what they accomplished. I felt they were very innovative."

Canyons officially split from the Jordan School District following a controversial public vote in 2007, becoming the first new Utah district in nearly a century.

Briscoe said if he's chosen as the new superintendent, he plans to be actively involved when it comes to legislation affecting the district, and he would prioritize being out in the community and schools.

Hammer said he's interested in the job because Canyons is an "outstanding school district" and it's home. He grew up attending schools that are now part of Canyons.

Hammer also serves as chair of the executive committee for the Utah High School Activities Association.

"I'm a people person," Hammer said of his management style. "I'm there to support staff. I'm there to support teachers. I'm there to support principals. I'm there to get parents involved."

And McCarrie, who was hired by the Canyons District before it officially opened to students, said she's "passionate about what we're doing in Canyons School District."

"My management style is to work as a team, to listen to the people that I work with, to value every employee," McCarrie said.

Across Utah, 12.2 percent of district superintendents are women, compared with 24.1 percent nationwide, according to a Utah Women and Leadership brief also released Monday.






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