Albany County School Board names next superintendent
Longtime Utah educator and administrator John Goldhardt will serve as the school district’s next leader. He spoke about his vision for local education during a public forum last month.
Albany County School District No. 1 has selected its next superintendent, announcing last week that John Goldhardt will take over as the district’s chief administrator when Jubal Yennie leaves in June.
Goldhardt was a teacher, administrator and university educator in Utah, where he worked for three decades. Most recently, Goldhardt worked for three years in New Hampshire, as superintendent of that state’s largest school district.
The Albany County School Board chose Goldhardt from a list of three finalists, completing what has been a bumpy replacement process.
“He is a strong, dynamic leader whose extensive experience in education as a classroom teacher, building administrator, and superintendent has prepared him well for the superintendent position in ACSD No. 1,” School Board Chair Janice Marshall said while announcing the board’s selection. “The communication skills he brings will be helpful as we transition to his leadership. Dr. Goldhardt will continue to move the district forward with student growth and achievement. His ability to work cooperatively with staff, students, and our community will be valuable as he gets to know our district and our community.”
In addition to school tours and meetings with staff, administrators and community members, Goldhardt fielded questions submitted by the public during a forum last month.
He highlighted his priorities for the district, his attitude toward cyberbullying and the role of parents in public education.
Leaving behind such a large district to lead a less populous district, Goldhardt praised the community connections a small school district can foster — from the neighborhoods surrounding each elementary school to the competent, civil citizens who graduate from high school.
“It’s the heartbeat of a community,” Goldhardt said. “When you have a thriving K-12 system, you have the opportunity for conversations to take place like, ‘What should our students know, understand and be able to do? What approach should we use to help them learn those things and know those things so they’re successful when they graduate?’”
The district’s “excellent” strategic plan and its high student performance were other draws, Goldhardt said.
“When you’re the superintendent of a district this size, you have the opportunity to be more directly involved with the schools, and you’re able to be a better learning leader because your time doesn’t have to be spent on other big issues that happen in larger districts,” he said.
Goldhardt was also asked about his top three priorities for the district.
“The first priority are students — that we make sure we budget for their needs for learning,” he said. “Do they have the instructional materials they need? Do we have the programs they need to be successful?”
High quality personnel and properly maintaining buildings were priorities two and three, but Goldhardt said everything ultimately comes back to the students.
“The learning part is the top priority,” he said. “And if it doesn’t show that it’s working, we shouldn’t spend money on it. If we know there’s an instructional tool that we’re using and we’re not seeing success with it, then we shouldn’t continue spending money on it, because we should only focus on those things that worked.”
That could even mean counseling new teachers who aren’t working out to consider different professions. Goldhardt said he occasionally did this during his time in teacher education in Utah.
“The first year, we’re providing a lot of direction if there are issues, and giving specific requirements of what needs to happen — mentorships, other supports from peers,” Goldhardt said. “Because our goal is to help people be successful. And if they’re not, for some people, sometimes, another profession is a better choice.”
Albany County’s next superintendent also said that communication with parents is essential. He talked about his own experiences using the SchoolMessenger app to keep parents in the loop.
“During COVID, we started sending a lot more messages out to parents because I thought it was important to be transparent and provide them with exactly what we were doing and why we were doing it,” Goldhardt said.
He added that news media and interpersonal communication are other significant facets of staying transparent.
“We can never overdo it, because the more we provide, the fewer questions and ambiguities there are,” Goldhardt said. “And when people are not sure of something, it causes some angst and fear, especially when there’s troubling times. And having that information makes a difference.”
When disputes arise between a parent and a teacher, Goldhardt said it is important to talk directly with those involved. It’s the only way, he said, to figure out the path forward. Similarly, he said interpersonal communication — especially with the students — is key when it comes to addressing bullying and cyberbullying.
“We’ve had too many youth across our country commit suicide, or come to school each day in fear because of bullying,” Goldhardt said. “That is wrong. I have to do everything in my ability to mitigate that so it doesn’t happen and to reduce that through prevention.”
Asked about the other educational institutions in Albany County — of which there are many — Goldhardt touted the benefits of partnerships with each, from University of Wyoming student teachers in district classrooms to concurrent enrollment opportunities offered through Laramie County Community College.
“We should be partners with all of them,” he said. “It makes our district better when we’re working with these other entities.”
Goldhardt will assume his role on the first day of July, beginning an initial two-year contract that pays $170,000 a year.