Atwater school chief search off to promising start

Atwater superintendent post advertised widely

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comMay 7, 2013 

— The process to replace retiring Atwater school Superintendent Melinda Hennes has just got under way and already there are inquiries from people interested in the job.

Bob Fore of Atwater, a retired Merced Union High School District superintendent, is heading up the recruiting process, which he hopes will be wrapped up by mid-June. Hennes is due to retire at the end of June after eight years as superintendent and a year as a principal.

Fore said advertisements about Hennes' position were placed in professional education journals and about 100 fliers were mailed to school districts with similar demographics to Atwater. The district placed ads in newspapers between Bakersfield and Sacramento, and a brochure explaining the vacancy has been rewritten.

Board President Kelly Fincher and Trustee Larry Whitney are the board advisers for the search.

A professional screening of applicants will be followed by interviews with community and professional panels. Final interviews will be with trustees.

The superintendent's position will pay $145,000 to $160,000 a year, Fore said. A May 17 application deadline has been set.

Whitney said the superintendent search is quite an involved, grueling process.

He said he ran for office last year to help get the school board back on the right track and to get Hennes back as superintendent after she was fired by three of the five board members in May of last year. No reason was given for the termination vote.

Board President Kelly Fincher said Hennes' retirement is bittersweet.

"We're sorry to see Mindy go. The board really likes her," Fincher said. "We're doing great things in the district. We are trying to make it (hiring process) as open as possible."

In July, the board voted 3-2 to reinstate Hennes, who returned to work the following month. One trustee resigned and another was recalled in October.

Whitney said he would like to find someone with some experience as superintendent and hopefully someone from the San Joaquin Valley who is familiar with local culture.

"We have a lot of home-grown talent in the valley," Whitney said. "It's a good opportunity for the right person. She'll be an extremely hard act to follow."

Fore was the high school superintendent in Merced for five years, retiring in 2008; he previously was superintendent of the Dos Palos-Oro Loma School District for five years. He has spent 41 years working for seven districts during his career.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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