Following a series of meetings over the past two weeks, the Fairfield school board on Feb. 20 hired Fairfield High School Principal Dustin Gordon as the district’s new superintendent, starting July 1.
“I feel like I have been interviewing for the job for 14 years,” Gordon said, during the interview process. He moved to Fairfield in 2006 as a high school math teacher, a position he held for three years before moving into administration. He served as the elementary principal for three years and then high school principal for eight. He has been the girls basketball coach throughout his tenure in Fairfield, but will relinquish that with his new position.
In addition to teaching at Fairfield, Gordon taught for two years at Sheridan and seven years at Chester. He has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Montana-Western and a master’s in educational leadership from UM. His past experience includes serving as an athletic director and coaching football, boys basketball, tennis and track. He is on the executive board of the School Administrators of Montana and is president of the Region II Montana Association of Secondary School Principals. He is also active in the Fairfield community, including the Fairfield Lions Club and Fairfield Education and Community Foundation.
At the Feb. 20 meeting, Gordon expressed his appreciation in being named superintendent and said he looks forward to working with the staff to continue the strong educational standards of the district. Hiring within the district, Gordon foresees a smooth transition over the four months as he works with current Superintendent Les Meyer, who is leaving to take the Frenchtown Public Schools superintendent’s job.
Gordon and the board members agreed to delay negotiating his contract until his exact duties are determined. The option of going from two and a half administrators to two is up for discussion. Gordon told the board he would like to explore all options and present them to the board. He would like to gather input from Courtney Bake (the elementary principal who has indicated she would like to move into a full-time principal position), staff members and the community.
“We need to put some thought into what would work best for the district,” Gordon said. In discussing the possibilities, the board indicated if the recommendation was to go to two administrators, it could be for a trial period of one year, after which time they could revisit the structure and could revert to two and a half administrators if warranted.
After announcing their selection, the board members said they looked forward to working with Gordon. They said appreciated his comments regarding how he envisions working with the board, and that they agree that trust, transparency, mutual respect and open communication are keys in having an effective relationship between the superintendent and board.
Before making their decision, board members on Feb. 18 interviewed two candidates, Gordon and Paul Wilson, principal at Greenfield Elementary School on the Fairfield Bench.
Each interview lasted a half hour and included a chance for the two men to highlight their backgrounds. They were also asked three questions from the board’s three-person interview committee, followed by additional questions from fellow board members in the audience and a couple questions from the dozen staff and community members present during the interviews.
The board members thanked the candidates for applying and for their patience, along with that of the school staff and community, as they navigated the process of hiring a new superintendent.
The board discussed going into closed session to discuss the candidates’ interviews, but were advised by the district’s clerk that the public’s right to know outweighed the individual’s right to privacy.
Before the committee voted on a seconded motion to take to the full board, committee and board chairman Jerry Shaw expressed how fortunate they were to have two excellent candidates that interviewed very well and certainly had the best interest of the school at heart and a love for the town of Fairfield.