Wood River High School Principal John Blackman was one of 38 candidates for assistant school superintendent, but after a nationwide search and an extensive selection process, the Blaine County School District decided to go with the local guy.
"July 1st is my official start date, but I've already started—I've got a lot of catching up to do," Blackman said Thursday.
Blackman's selection was announced Tuesday after the school district board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the recommendation of an 11-member selection committee, consisting of two teachers, two parents, two other principals, two district directors, a district Human Resources representative, school board Chair Julie Dahlgren and district Superintendent Lonnie Barber.
Human Resources Director Katie Palmer said the job was advertised nationally throughout the month of February and that 38 candidates applied. Nine were interviewed and Blackman was selected as the top candidate.
"We had some strong candidates, too," Palmer said.
Blackman, 50, has been a school district employee for 26 years, with most of that time spent at the high school. Originally from Seattle, he played offensive guard on a football scholarship at Montana State University and moved to the Wood River Valley after graduation.
He's been an art teacher, football coach, vice principal and—for the past three years—principal at the high school.
"I've got that right-brain sort of thing going on," Blackman said. "What's interesting is Lonnie Barber taught art, too, so we've got that in common."
As assistant superintendent, Blackman will serve as Barber's right-hand man by becoming chief academic officer and director of human resources. Blackman explained that Palmer, currently director of human resources, will retire this summer and that he will assume her duties.
Historically in the school district, assistant superintendents have been in a training mode to eventually become superintendents, but Blackman said he doesn't envision himself in that role.
"I was not brought in necessarily to train for superintendent," he said. "What I'm looking forward to is working with him [Barber] and I think I can do that pretty well.
"My intent is not necessarily to be the head guy, but I think I play a good support role. We really do mesh well and I think it's going to be a good team."
Blackman said Barber inspired him to apply for the job.
"When Lonnie came into the district, I was pretty excited about the leadership he was bringing in, and that's when I decided to go back to school," Blackman said.
He was referring to an education specialist degree, which is the equivalent of a doctorate degree and is a required level of education to become a school superintendent. Blackman said he will finish the education specialist program in May.
Blackman said he's looking forward to the new job, but will miss Wood River High School.
"I do kind of hate getting away from the kids," he said "I'm going to miss this high school big time. I've been here a lot of years.
"I'm really going to miss the staff here. Yesterday I announced it to them and it was pretty emotional."
The district will likely hire a replacement for Blackman this summer.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org