Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles profiling the finalists for the Bonneville Joint School District 93 superintendent job.
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Bonneville Joint School District 93 assistant superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme joked that his job title doesn’t always reflect what he’s done for the district.
Official titles can be deceiving, Woolstenhulme said, but he’s had a major role in one of the fastest growing school districts in the state since joining the district office in 2011.
Having been involved in the district during the previous 15 years, Woolstenhulme is one of two finalists in the running for the District 93 superintendent position being vacated by retiring superintendent, Chuck Shackett. The other finalist is Laramie County (Wyoming) superintendent Jon Abrams.
“Dr. Shackett has done an amazing job creating a culture that people love coming to work here,” Woolstenhulme said.
“(Teachers and administrators) like the job they do, they like the autonomy they have and feeling valued, and to me, that’s one of the most fundamental responsibilities is continuing that culture that has really brought really great people into our district,” he added.
Woolstenhulme’s background in education started at Churchhill Junior High School in Utah where he taught eighth-grade English before moving to Shelley High School in 1998 to teach English and government. After five years in Shelley he was hired as an assistant principal at Hillcrest High School, where he served from 2004 to 2009.
After spending one year as principal of Cloverdale Elementary in 2010, Woolstenhulme was hired by the district office as the Director of School Improvement in 2011. He was hired as an assistant superintendent in 2015, and he holds both roles today.
Woolstenhulme received his bachelor of arts in English teaching from Brigham Young University in 1997 and received his master’s in educational leadership from Idaho State University in 2004.
If hired as superintendent, Woolstenhulme said he will continue to work with the Board of Trustees to help the district grow to accommodate the county’s rapid population growth.
“Our focus is how do we get really, really good at those practices we’ve been working on for the last five to seven years,” Woolstenhulme said.
Since 2008, District 93’s enrollment has increased by about 4,000 students — in part because of the area’s cheap cost of living, low tax rates and improved infrastructure. The district is expected to have more than 15,000 students by 2025, the district’s data shows.
And with the growth has come bonds, projects and the need to refurbish an overwhelmed infrastructure.
The latest bond, passed by District 93 voters last March, will be used to build a new middle school in the next two years. It cost taxpayers $35.3 million.
In May, the board is expected to propose a $35 to $40 million bond for expansions on Hillcrest and Bonneville high school’s science classrooms; the construction of a new elementary school; and the remodeling of special education programs at Falls Valley and Mountain Valley elementary schools.
Woolstenhulme has been heavily involved in the bond process, recently developing focus groups to tour Hillcrest and Bonneville high schools to persuade patrons of the need for new science classrooms.
Despite the “high price tag” for recent bonds, Woolstenhulme said he and the board have worked hard to accommodate the district’s changing needs during the previous nine years.
“The challenge isn’t over,” Woolstenhulme said. “But we’re in a nice situation where we can take a step back and really plan for the next 12 years.”
Woolstenhulme said the district’s key goals for the next seven years are: 90 percent of third-grade students to be reading at proficient levels, 67 percent of sixth-grade and eighth-grade students to show they’re ready for middle school and high school, respectively, on the ISAT and 90 percent of graduating seniors to earn at least one college graduate credit.
Woolstenhulme said that if he is selected as superintendent the district will continue to organize under the “professional learning communities” ideology — a collective-based framework that focuses on student needs, teacher collaboration and results — in order to achieve those goals.
“For me, it’s a little interesting because it’s not like with Dr. Shackett leaving, it’s like, ‘OK, great, we could totally change course and do something different’ because the ideas that I have and what I think we should be doing is what we’ve been doing for the last eight years,” Woolstenhulme said.
In terms of taxes and levies, Woolstenhulme said the district must be “conscious” of how much it spends in the future. He said critics of Thunder Ridge High School, which opened in the fall, might call the new high school “ostentatious.”
But District 93, he said, will continue to pride itself on its curriculum, teachers and helping students.
“I think what the patrons want to know is that we’re good stewards of their money,” Woolstenhulme said. “I think in the past, we may have been too casual sometimes with money and it wasn’t that we were wasting it, but I think there were ways we could’ve been more conservative.”
Woolstenhulme and Abrams are expected to meet with District 93 patrons today at Thunder Ridge. The meet and greet begins at 7 p.m.