Following his announcement of plans to retire in summer 2023, Littleton Public Schools Superintendent Brian Ewert laid out a proposal before the district's Board of Education for what a search process for his replacement could look like.
Speaking during a June 9 board meeting, Ewert put forward a seven to eight-month timeline, beginning in August and ending in February or March of 2023, that includes hiring a national search firm, conducting community outreach and selecting a finalist.
He urged the board to conduct an “inclusive” process that allows for a diversity of community opinions to be heard and stressed the importance of a search that is "highly polished" and “looks good to the community.”
Ewert said the board should employ transparency, especially in its final stages when it looks to hold a final round of interviews with what Ewert suggested should be two or three finalists.
A recent Colorado state law signed April 4 allows school boards to interview superintendent finalists in executive session if multiple finalists are named. A past state law also allows for public schools to put forward sole finalists, which some open records advocates saw as a blow to transparency.
Ewert said despite the state laws, the board should pursue multiple finalists and said he "doesn't recommend" the board conduct finalist interviews in executive session.
“I don’t see why the board would want to interview in executive session,” Ewert said.
The district's budget for the search process is $50,000, a number Ewert said he "can't imagine" the district exceeding.
Ewert, a 36-year veteran of public schools, has served as district leader since April 2015. He received praise from board members for his work shepherding the district through a slew of crises that included funding challenges, declining enrollment rates and threats of violence spurred by COVID-19 policies.
“I think the leadership that you have shown after a few difficult years is to be commended," said board member Lindley McCrary.
Board member Joan Anderssen said the leadership Ewert has shown "through the pandemic has been exemplary."
The pandemic has been an especially strenuous time for Ewert and district staff who, in a past Colorado Community Media article, said "is not something that any of us were ever prepared to deal with for two years."
Ewert and other board members were the subject of death threats in late January from a 48-year-old Thornton man whose mother said he held conservative anti-vaccine beliefs. Byron Clayton, who left a voicemail on Ewert's phone threatening to kill him with anthrax, was arrested Jan. 26 and sentenced to 10 days in jail on June 2.
Other challenges weathered by Ewert include consolidating schools as the district's enrollment rate declined and securing a bond and mill levy from Littleton voters that allowed the district to raise new funds for various projects and helped shore up gaps created from a lack of sufficient state funding.
“This community and this board have really stuck with me," Ewert said. “I’m proud of the work that we’ve done. Has it been easy, no … but I would not go back and undo any of those hard decisions that we’ve made."
Ewert said he had "been contemplating retirement for a couple of years" and hopes 2023 will be a "very quiet and calm year" as he looks to transition.
LPS School Board President Robert Reichardt, in a previous interview with Colorado Community Media, called Ewert an "excellent leader" and commended him for giving the board more than a year's notice ahead of his retirement.
"We will miss him,” Reichardt said. “I think he picked a time to leave that works out really well."
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