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BPS superintendent finalists announced

The pool of potential superintendents at Beatrice Public Schools has been narrowed down to four.

The BPS Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening to evaluate the applicants for the position and select four finalists. State law requires that finalists be made public when four or fewer are being considered, and the candidates’ resumes were made public after two 10-minute closed sessions by the board.

Candidates include:

Jason Alexander

Alexander is the current superintendent of Ord Public Schools in central Nebraska. His resume states he’s achieved student achievement NeSA scores above state averages in every subject and was a final project manager of a 29,000-square-foot addition at Ord. He also led the passage of a $9.8 million bond issue for the school.

Alexander was previously an elementary principal. He served as the elementary administrator at Burwell Elementary School and also taught sixth grade, in addition to coaching four sports.

Michael Halley

Halley is the current high school principal of Scottsbluff Public Schools, a position he’s held since 2011.

He’s also served as the assistant high school principal and assistant athletic director at Scottsbluff and has a history of teaching physical education at three Nebraska schools.

Halley was involved in a $29.2 million bond issue for a new high school that was adopted at Scottsbluff.

Jacquelyn Nielsen

Nielsen has served as the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Beatrice Public Schools since 2012, working to organize and strengthen the development of curriculum, striving to meet state standards and a variety of other objectives.

She’s the assistant principal of BHS and worked for Omaha Public Schools from 2004-2012 in several positions. She has also worked for Hannibal Public Schools in Hannibal, Mo., and Papillion LaVista Public Schools.

Nielsen will receive her doctorate in education in May from the University of Nebraska.

Michael Sieh

Sieh is the current superintendent at Stanton Community Schools, southeast of Norfolk.

He’s also an instructor of school law at Wayne State College. Sieh’s previous experience includes working as the secondary principal of Spencer-Naper Public Schools, as the secondary principal of Clearwater Public Schools and as a math instructor, also at Clearwater.

His leadership positions include roles as the chairman of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, past president of the Nebraska Association of School Administrators and various other positions.

Sieh received an educational doctoral degree in administration from the University of Nebraska in 2009.

School Board President Lisa Pieper said the decision will be a tough one, and that she was happy with the candidates who applied.

“I was pleased with the number of candidates that we received, the applications we received and the quality of the candidates I felt was excellent,” she said. “I’m pleased to announced the board has selected four fine finalists and I look forward to presenting those candidates to our interview teams.”

Interviews with the candidates are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 9 at the high school.

Roy Baker, of Baker and Rastovski School Services, lead the discussion Tuesday evening.

Baker said 17 applications were received for the superintendent position. Seven finalists were presented to the school board for consideration Tuesday before the remaining finalists were announced.

Of the seven candidates brought forward, four were current superintendents, one a high school principal, another was a curriculum director and the seventh a human resources supervisor. Four of the seven were men and three candidates were women.

Baker added that those with superintendent experience were primary candidates, though others who stood out were also considered for the role.

“The four superintendents who we are including in this semifinalist group are those that we perceive to have an edge over the others who applied, both in terms of job performance and a better fit with the qualities desired that you folks and other groups have come up with,” he said. “The three other semifinalists are people who have not yet been superintendent, but appear to have great potential.”

He said the candidates possessed qualities the school board members have indicated they would like to see in the hire, including strong communication skills, self confidence, optimism and the ability to inspire trust.

He said many applicants submitted letters of recommendation, which was not required, but in person or over the phone interviews carry the most weight.

“It’s not rocket science doing a school budget,” Baker said. “You have to have a brain for it, those things can be learned. Those are the things a person can gain, but the personal qualities, you can’t learn it. That’s not something you can teach someone.”

Board member Steve Winter agreed that finding someone who interacts well with the public is a key factor in the board’s decision.

“Sometimes, you get the person that’s really calculator-smart and they can’t talk to the public, they can’t communicate,” he said. “I don’t want someone who’s really good in the finance part and can’t talk to the rest of the community.”

The selected candidate will lead BPS heading into the 2018-19 school year.

The search follows an announcement last month that Pat Nauroth, the current BPS superintendent, will retire at the end of the school year.

Nauroth was hired by the board in December of 2012 and began his tenure as superintendent of Beatrice Public Schools in July 2013. His final day will be at the end of June 2018.

Baker previously said an offer will be made to a potential superintendent by Dec. 11.

He’s previously suggested the salary range for the future superintendent should be $150,000-$165,000, saying the range is “what fits” with current trends.

The school board previously decided that when a superintendent is hired, his or her contract will be for a two-year term.

File photo 

Two Exmark Manufacturing lawn mowers were transformed into mobile Christmas trees as part of the Lighted Christmas Parade in 2016. This year's parade begins on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on Fifth Street.

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Crews from the Beatrice Electric Department were up in cherry picker trucks to hang festive decor around downtown Beatrice on Wednesday morning.

The banners that read "Season's Greetings" and sparkly snowflakes that hang from light posts around downtown arrived just a few days after Thanksgiving and just in time for the Christmas season.

Charles Park also received its yearly decor on Wednesday, as crews hung lighted wreaths around the area. 

Paddock Lane contractor approved

Work on an addition to Paddock Lane Elementary School is expected to start in December after the Beatrice Public Schools Board of Education approved a contract for the addition Tuesday night.

The School Board approved the contract for $1.128 million with Rogge General Contracting out of Lincoln for the project.

Board member Jon Zimmerman said the bid was the lowest submitted out of three.

“We went with the lowest bid that was submitted,” Zimmerman said. “It was the lowest viable bid, too. Just because you bid low doesn’t mean you have to take it, but Steve and I felt that Rogge General Contracting provided a good bid and also gets us into where we hoped to be able to fall.”

The second lowest bid from Sampson Caspers Construction for an additional $204,000, while the final bid from Lacey Construction was around $274,000 more than the winning bid.

Board member Steve Winter said all three bids were relatively close, given the scope of the project.

“I think all the bids were relatively good bids,” Winter said. “It’s always tough maybe to not use a local bidder, but the difference was $204,000 between the low bid and the next bid. It’s tough to look the other way on that. I think from that, it was an obvious choice we had to make.”

Winter and Zimmerman were each on a committee that included architect Michael Fakler, the architect who designed the project, to evaluate the bid proposals.

The vote to approve the contract was unanimous, though board member Doris Martin was hesitant to award the contract to a company that isn’t based in Gage County.

“I really have heartburn not going with a local person,” Martin said. “They’re paying taxes in our district. I really struggle with that.”

The new building will include six classrooms that will replace four portable classrooms that are currently in use at Paddock Lane, with two additional classrooms to accommodate more students, as Beatrice Public Schools restructures after the transition of Cedar Elementary into a preschool-only facility.

The addition will be outfitted with traditional tile in the hallways, carpet in classrooms and at least one window per classroom. LED lights will also be featured in each classroom.

The project will come with around $30,000 in fees to the city of Beatrice, most of which are due to water main work.

Zimmerman said a water line currently runs where construction will take place, and the line will need to be abandoned.

The project will also require running water to the current portable buildings being used at Paddock Lane.