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Clarke School Board selects Benita Gonzales as new superintendent

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:40 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:41 a.m. CDT

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Clarke Community School Board announced a superintendent contract has been offered to Benita Gonzales, who is currently the shared superintendent of Sigourney and Tri-County Community school districts.

A special board meeting was held April 10 since the superintendent selection had been postponed during a regular school-board meeting April 8.

"It has been a long selection process with a lot of voicemail and back-and-forth talk," said Clarke School Board President Gerard Linskens.

Contract

According to Ruth White, business manager for Clarke Community School District, the board is offering Gonzales a one-year contract to begin July 1. This includes a salary of $130,000 and cafeteria plan for insurance — a type of employee-benefit plan — of $1,000 per month.

The contract also includes 30 days of sick leave, which would consist of 20 days of sick leave from Gonzales' current school districts, and 10 days of sick leave Clarke offers for the first-year position.

The contract also has 20 vacation days and $5,000 toward moving expenses.

There were 22 applicants for the superintendent position. The board interviewed five finalists during the week of March 25.

The five final candidates included Gonzales, Brandon Eighmy, principal of Clarke Community Elementary School, Brett Gibbs, superintendent of Audubon Community School District, Steve Seid, interim superintendent of Clarke Community School District, and Dr. Pamela Vogel, superintendent of East Union Community School District.

However, Vogel withdrew her name from the candidate selection April 8.

“After careful consideration, I decided this is not the right position for me,” Vogel said during a Creston News Advertiser interview Wednesday morning. “It’s my understanding the (Clarke) superintendent position is a one-year contract, and I don’t feel one year is enough to lead the change necessary for long-range improvements."

Clarke Community School District retained the services of McPherson and Jacobson L.L.C. to assist in conducting its search. The search firm will continue working with the school board and Gonzales in helping establish performance objectives.

For Gonzales, one of the things that interested her in the position was the challenge of moving to a large, single-school, school district.

"There were a lot of different initiatives that were occurring that I thought I would like to be a part of," Gonzales said during an April 10 phone interview with the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune.

Gonzales said she wanted to come to Clarke and honor the "good, solid traditions" the school district has in place.

"I am going to work with people to find out what are the needs and things we are looking at," she said.

Experience

Gonzales' work experience includes being a teacher at Lewis Central from 1978 to 1983, a teacher at Davenport from 1987 to 2007, high-school principal at Fort Madison from 2007 to 2011 and superintendent at Sigourney and Tri-County Community school districts starting in 2011.

Learning more about the school district, community and using her skill sets to get the district where it needs to be are some of the goals Gonzales said she hopes to accomplish as Clarke superintendent.

Local population

There is a large Hispanic population within the school district, however, Gonzales said she isn't bilingual.

"I wish that was a strength for me, but unfortunately, it is not," she said.

Gonzales added, she is looking forward to learning more about the Spanish language. She said she is also excited to reach out and work with the district, including its Hispanic population.

A strong desire to see students succeed is something people at Clarke are invested in, Gonzales said.

She said everyone seems "very invested" in working toward that goal.

"It's to give them the best, provide the best and make the school district a district that excels," Gonzales said.

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