School superintendent search narrows
By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
The Oxford School Board has narrowed the search for Oxford’s next superintendent down to two candidates: David Pass and Ken Weaver. They now advance to second round interviews.
The board voted unanimously on Pass and Weaver Feb. 3 after conducting hour-and-a-half-long interviews with five candidates last week. The interviews were held in public at Oxford Middle School.
Decisions were made based on an 18-bulletpoint candidate profile the board prepared with public input. “Our intent is to identify the candidate that best fits the profile,” Board President Tom Donnelly said.
Each board member nominated two or three candidates they wanted to advance. A consensus was reached when Pass and Weaver each received six nominations. The other three candidates, John Bernia, Todd Bidlack and Jill Lemond each received one nomination. Once Pass and Weaver were nominated, the board voted 7-0 to move them forward.
John Silveri of the Michigan Leadership Institute, who is advising the board through the search process, said he has only once before seen a board give at least one nomination to every candidate they interviewed. “I do think [that] speaks to the quality of the candidate field that you had here, and I think it speaks well of your district that you had five folks you invited in to interview, all of whom brought some very positive things to the table.”
Both Pass and Weaver are current administrators for Oxford Community Schools. Pass is assistant superintendent of human resources and Weaver is deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
“Both have demonstrated known qualities of leadership and excellence,” said board member Erick Foster, who nominated both Pass and Weaver. “For them and for me, there would be no guessing or uncertainty . . . they both have extensive administrative experience, extensive bargaining experience and they are already trusted members of Team O.”
The two finalists will meet with various stakeholder groups all afternoon before their second interviews. Pass will interview on Feb. 16; Weaver on Feb. 17.
On the day of their interview, they will meet stakeholders at Oxford High School Performing Arts Center beginning with high school students from 1:10 p.m., district administrators at 2 p.m., secondary school staff at 3:10 p.m., elementary school staff at 4:10 p.m., and parents and community members at 5:10 p.m. The candidates will have a break before their interview begins at 7 p.m.
The second interviews will be slightly shorter and will include a 20-minute presentation by the candidate on their 90-day plan. Community members will again be able to watch the interviews and submit feedback forms.
A subcommittee of board members Heather Shafer, Mary Hanser and Korey Bailey will conduct worksite visits of each candidate the week of Feb. 21.
The board will vote their final decision March 4. Since both Pass and Weaver are internal candidates, they may not need to give a standard two-week notice before leaving their current position and could potentially start earlier than the projected March 28 start date, according to Silveri.
Ken Weaver’s interview
Weaver joined the district in 2003. He has served as assistant principal of Oxford High School, principal of Oxford Middle School and assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. He was promoted to deputy superintendent in 2018. He holds an education specialist degree in school administration from Oakland University and a masters in educational leadership from Brigham Young University.
During his interview, Weaver share the story of how he became an educator.
In high school, he had behavior issues and lacked academic motivation. During his junior year, his chemistry teacher pulled him aside and told him he was not living up to his potential. “She encouraged me to apply myself and realize that I had been given many talents and abilities,” Weaver said. H he laughed it off at the time, he added.
Things changed a few years later in college when he happened to get involved in tutoring and coaching at his former high school where he realized he was good at working with kids. “I realized I wanted to make a difference in someone else’s life. I wanted to be a teacher. I began to take school seriously. My grades improved dramatically and I found my purpose and my passion.”
His supervising professor later said he was one of the best student teachers he ever had and encouraged him to become an administrator. “At this moment, I began to realize what my chemistry teacher was talking about all those years ago.”
He realized that education is really about helping others see and fulfill their potential, like his teachers had done for him. “I want to work with you as your superintendent to help our students and staff reach their full potential.”
When the board asked him for an example of a risk he has taken to do what’s right for children, he shared an emotional story about his experience on Nov. 30.
When he received a call that the school was in lockdown with reports of shots fired, he drove there as fast as he could. He ran into the building and witnessed high school administration performing lifesaving on a student. “I then watched as the perpetrator came out of the bathroom 20 yards from us.”
Weaver said he had to witness other things after that, but he stopped the story there. The next day he had to go back into the building with a contractor to start planning for the return of school.
But the bravest thing he did was to get counseling. “That’s one thing to realize as you look at ‘Oxford Strong.’ Strong doesn’t mean you do it alone. You do it with others. And it’s important to heal with others.”
Weaver wanted the board to know that he is okay. “These kids that have gone through a lot, I know they’re going to be okay too, because we’re going to take care of them. . . I endured a lot on November 30th, but I love those kids, and I’m willing to do anything for them.”
Weaver’s short-term priority is safety. His long-term priorities are social/emotional and mental health, improving a culture of support for students especially at the secondary schools, and to revisit the district’s strategic plan to figure out what kind of school they ultimately want to attend.
David Pass’ interview
Pass joined the district in 2018. He has experience as a middle school math teacher, middle school assistant principal, elementary principal and human resource director in Waterford, Avondale and Troy districts. He recently earned a doctor of education degree in organizational leadership from Oakland University.
“I think the experiences I have had throughout my career have created some maybe well-rounded experience from a perspective of having served as a building administrator, as a teacher, and human resources.”
When he was 17 years old, he visited his sister who was a student teacher pursuing education. “From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. It resonated with me.”
Friends and colleagues have asked him if he still wanted to pursue the superintendent position after the tragedy on Nov. 30. “Without question,” he answered. “Education has been a calling for me. And I believe I have been called to a greater purpose to make a difference, support this community, support our kids. That’s why I want to be your next superintendent.”
His short-term priorities are physical, emotional and psychological safety. They need to differentiate student needs and meet each student where they are. “A big part of my 90-day plan is listening. We need to listen and we need to engage.”
He also wants to develop his relationship with the board right away, perhaps through a workshop.
His long-term priorities are mental health, bargaining contracts with employees in coming months and recovering learning loss from the pandemic and as a result of the November tragedy.
He plans to address long-term mental health through building relationships. “We need to make sure that every child has a meaningful relationship with an adult in every one of our buildings.”
“Honesty is key for me,” he said in closing. “I think having trusting, honest relationships, acting with integrity, doing what’s best for kids – that’s who I am. And if I were your next superintendent, you could count on me to act according to those values, always.”