Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees on Friday heard from each of the five candidates to be the district’s next superintendent. The candidates told stories of their experience as leaders in education.
Rather than answering more traditional interview questions, each candidate was asked to tell two professional stories – one of a positive experience and one they wish had a different or better outcome. The stories were shorter versions of longer stories shared during the candidate selection process in March.
The long stories were not presented to trustees after several candidates said they’d withdraw from the process if the interviews were made public. Some feared they’d revealed sensitive information.
William Bryan, the CEO of The Bryan Group, which was selected to lead the district’s superintendent search, led this guided storytelling. He said the process allows interviewees to reveal their leadership style, proficiencies and skills through storytelling rather than typical questions and answers.
Bryan said he guides the interviewees through their storytelling process, but doesn’t put words in their mouths.
“You will see me interrupting a lot, much more than you would see in a traditional interview, because I’m pushing for detail,” he said.
At some points several candidates only spoke one to two sentences between interruptions. The interruptions, at times, made the candidates’ stories disjointed and difficult to follow.
Bryan also said he’d be stopping candidates and prompting them to use “I” instead of “we” in their stories so it was clear they were the ones who took whatever actions were discussed. People working in education often use “we” statements, he said.
An education professional watching the interviews told This Is Reno the use of “we” statements is more often used by women who tend to share credit, versus the “I” statements used by men who “are much more likely to take too much credit.”
“He is basically trying to impose the patriarchal norm. It is embarrassingly backwards,” they said.
They also likened the interruptions during the interview to interruptions made by some senators during the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings. The optics of a “white old man interrupting highly-qualified women,” the expert added, was “out of touch.”
Between each story, trustees were allowed to ask questions following up on each candidate’s story. While some questions probed for more detail about the stories, others were more traditional in nature.
The five candidates interviewed were:
- Jhone Ebert, Md.E, Carson City, NV
- Susan Enfield, Ed.D., Normandy Park, WA
- Sherrell Hobbs, Ph.D., Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Shawn T. Loescher, Ed.D., San Diego, CA
- Caprice Young, Ed.D., Los Angeles, CA
The next step in the superintendent selection process is in-person visits between April 18-20 when candidates will participate in a series of tours, social gatherings and other events. Trustees will make a selection April 26 for the new superintendent to start July 1.
All of the candidate interviews can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6urCK4sqr8.
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with 20 years’ experience working in communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. In her free time, she is a volunteer backpacking guide along the Tahoe Rim Trail, an avid home cook and baker, cyclist, wife and stepmom.