Two women and two men, including an elementary school principal and a former math teacher, are in the running to be the next superintendent of the Gilbert Unified School District.
The district released the names of the four superintendent finalists Tuesday afternoon. All are employees of the district.
The finalists are: Dave Allison, associate superintendent of administrative services; Gayle Blanchard, principal of Neely Traditional Academy; Ken James, executive director of educational services; and Barbara VeNard, assistant superintendent of educational services.
The district decided to search internally for a new superintendent after current Superintendent Brad Barrett announced in November he was leaving June 30 at the end of his contract. He has been in the post for seven years.
Allison has been with the district since 1993. He has a doctorate in education leadership from Arizona State University and a masters in curriculum and instruction from the University of Calgary.
Allison previously served as the assistant superintendent of educational services, and the assistant superintendent of secondary education and classified personnel.
Gilbert councilman Don Skousen, a former Gilbert school board member for 19 years, said he knows Allison the best out of the other candidates.
“I think highly of Allison. I just haven’t had the chance to interact with the others,” said Skousen, who was on the board from 1972 to 1991.
Blanchard has been with the district since 1984. She has a masters and bachelors degree in elementary education from ASU.
Before she became principal of Gilbert’s Neely Traditional Academy, a kindergarten through sixth-grade school, she was principal of Harris Elementary, a Gilbert district school in Mesa.
Blanchard has also been the dean of students at Greenfield Junior High School, the district’s instructional technology coordinator, computer resource teacher and an elementary classroom teacher.
James has been with the district since 1989. He has a masters in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Iowa State University.
James was previously the principal and assistant principal of Highland High School and a math teacher at Mesquite Junior High School.
VeNard has been with the district since 1990. She holds a masters degree in counselor education from ASU and a bachelor’s degree in special education from ASU.
Before becoming the assistant superintendent of educational services, she was the director of curriculum and instruction and the director of curriculum and assessment. She also was principal at Superstition Springs Elementary School, assistant principal at Highland High School and Gilbert High School, and a counselor at Gilbert High.
Gilbert mom Bobbi Smith said she has worked with each of the finalists through the parent superintendent council, but knows VeNard the best.
“I know her the best as a leader in Gilbert,” said Smith, the vice president of the Parent Teacher Student Organization at Settler’s Point Elementary School. “I’ve seen her involved in a lot of different programs.”
Smith, who has two boys at Settler’s Point, said the finalists are all “wonderful” candidates.
“They’re going to have a tough job deciding,” she said. “I’ve worked with each one of them and can say nothing but good things about all of them.”
Skousen said he’s glad the district decided to search internally for the next superintendent.
“I know there’s been a lot of criticism about not going outside (for the search),” he said. “I think these people can probably hit the ground running. If things are going relatively well and you have people who are on board that know the system, you don’t necessarily need to go to the outside.”
The governing board will conduct interviews throughout the next couple of weeks, and is expected to name the next superintendent in early March.