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North Franklin School District selects new Superintendent

May 1, 2024

By: Katherine Trowbridge

The North Franklin School District Board of Directors was joined by Administration, Staff, Students, and Community members as they reviewed the final two candidates for North Franklin Superintendent. 

Candidates were selected from the pool of applicants on Monday, April 22 and invited to a day-long event; including district tours, meetings, and final interviews on Saturday, April 27.

Board Chairman Terry Utecht stated, “We are hopeful about the future of our district and are grateful for the wonderful candidates who are eager to serve the North Franklin School District.”

Not many professions allow their employees the opportunity to participate in the hiring process for their next boss and this was one unique experience for those who opted to participate. Educators met with the candidates individually, getting to hear from them and ask questions.  Educators shared that the district had selected two good candidates, they got the feeling that they truly care - not just for the students, but staff. 

Candidates for Superintendent, (l-r) Robert Elizondo and Brian Moore, met with a Student Panel made up of ASB leaders from Olds Junior High and Connell High Schools over lunch (above).

A student panel met with both candidates, sharing conversation over lunch.The students stated both were good candidates. Elizondo shared his passion for education with the students and asked them  what college they’d like to attend. Conversations moved to his band as he shared his love of music with two of the students who also have a band. Moore engaged the students to talk about their favorite teacher and activities beyond class. He later expressed he was surprised that none of them mentioned sports. 

Each candidate then went into the final interview while the other met with community members.  Sessions with educators and community members were open to anyone who wished to attend. 

Brian Moore expressed he was “super excited to be here.” Moore shared that he has two students in college and a 16 year old at Richland High School. As a family, they play a lot of golf, enjoy Disneyland, and travel. He shared that Richland is so big he is not able to know the students or even staff on a personal level and that’s one reason he feels North Franklin is a good fit. In a smaller district everyone has a voice… when making decisions or issues arise you can have that “discussion, decision, action.” His mentor taught him that in leadership, relationships come first and the importance of connecting with people. Moore stated he prides himself on relationships. He shared that he can’t be a good superintendent just sitting at a desk all day and looks forward to getting out into the schools and learning about what they are doing.

Moore asked the community members gathered some questions, getting insight on Mr. Jacobs, and the district as a whole. Discussion was held on the many positives within our district to which Moore was a bit familiar, sharing  his family is friends with the Bailie’s from Mesa. The community also asked him questions in return.

When asked about CRT/sex ed issues he stated, “I’m a big believer in local control.” While he shared he is conservative, he is accepting of everyone. 

When asked about bridging the gap to hear from more of the community, Moore shared how he was able to bring the Hispanic families to the table in Richland to share and be heard. 

Speaking to questions on programs he felt the goal of keeping kids within the district, in regards to programs, is important, but also felt that the option to do what’s best for them would win out, even if that were to be attending Running Start.

When asked if he would live within the district his response was, “I couldn’t do the job I want to do without living in the district.” He went on to share that his wife works from home and they would leave the decision up to their son if he wanted to finish out his high school career in Richland, then they would be a two home household for a few years. 

Robert Elizondo visits with community members during the community panel held in the afternoon on Saturday, April 27.

Robert Elizondo stated that Touchet is a very small school district and he really is doing everything from janitorial to principal, not just Superintendent. He stated he truly wants to be a Superintendent. Elizondo has five children, his youngest is currently in college. He shared his love of country and the education system. Elizondo came as an immigrant to America with his family at age 7, was a mono-lingual student and has worked his way up. He said it is, “all because of teachers I am where I am today.” As was mentioned earlier, he is a musician. As a former pep bander - he looks forward to getting involved with the kids and community. 

When asked about CRT/sex ed issues he stated that at his school they picked it apart and implemented the very minimum necessary. 

Elizondo shared that, “Whatever kids need, let’s make sure they get it.” He spoke on equity for all students and gave his personal insight into the issues of second language learners when the topic arose in discussions. He highlighted his wife’s work with dual lingual programs, spoke highly of dual language programs, and stated he would love to explore options for that. Even highlighting technology’s advancement and looking at using that in regards to these programs as well. 

He spoke on how to use funding to serve all students and talked on having conversations regarding what the next level is for our district. Bringing everyone to the table to really move forward.

Like Moore, he shared that having a presence within the community is really important - he has implemented coffee with the Superintendent in Touchet.

In discussions on programs, Elizondo was about programs that kept kids within the district. 

When asked about moving to our district, he shared about owning a home along the river in Pasco. 

Elizondo has worked within a variety of districts of all sizes and his goal would be to retire in five to seven years. 

The board reviewed all the feedback forms, and discussed the candidates in depth following the interview process on Saturday. They then met in open session on Monday, April 29 to make their final vote. Lori Mercer, couldn’t attend the meeting but sent a letter that Chairman Terry 

Utecht read. 

Mercer stated, “NFSD Is worthy to have two worthy candidates that are not making our decision easy. I really value Mr. Elizondo’s roots in counseling, and he clearly shows his passion for education. I am inspired by his life journey, his commitment to kids and being bilingual would be a huge asset to our district.”

Mercer continued, “Mr. Moore comes with extensive experience in a larger district and possesses strong leadership qualities. I enjoyed his thorough, honest, and transparent responses to questions, and I can see him being a good fit for our entire community.”  

Mercer added, “Either candidate could serve our district well, but I believe Mr. Moore would be the best fit for NFSD. I certainly trust and support the decision made by my fellow board members in attendance…” 

While the rest of the board conceded that either candidate would serve our district well they agreed with Mercer’s statement. Patti Walker moved to extend the position to Brian Moore with chair Utecht designated to negotiate the contract pending further background checks. 

Following the motion, discussion was held. Jon Fox stated the qualities were right there. Pat Hailey stated, “It was tough.” She shared that the candidates were really consistent in what they said to each group. “When it came down to it — for the whole district, for where we are at — Moore won out,” Hailey said.

Patti Walker shared that both were “prepared and polished, if it had been just one or the other of them we would’ve considered ourselves lucky.” Walker stated that in the end, Mr. Moore would’ve been the better fit for our district.

Fox added, “All the papers from the community seemed to agree with that.” 

With the statement from Mercer, it truly came down to a unanimous vote of the board for Moore to be hired as our next superintendent.  

Hailey went on to thank Mr. Sementi and the Northwest Leadership Associates team for getting the district through this process. She also expressed appreciation to the teachers, staff, students, and community for their participation. The board shared that they really went over each and everyone of the feedback sheets in making their decision.

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