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Cd'A superintendent seeking job in Colorado

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | April 24, 2024 1:09 AM

Coeur d'Alene School District Superintendent Shon Hocker is seeking a superintendent job in another state.

Hocker, who has led the Coeur d'Alene School District since July 1, 2021, is one of two finalists vying for the position of superintendent in the Pueblo School District in Pueblo, Colo. He was in Boise attending the Idaho Law Conference with three school board trustees earlier this week, but will travel to Pueblo for the final interview today. In a Monday letter to staff, Hocker said he expects the Pueblo trustees to select the superintendent shortly after the final interviews.

"I understand that news of my candidacy for a position with another district may come as a surprise and possibly a disappointment to you," Hocker said in the letter, which was sent Tuesday to The Press.

"My decision to explore this opportunity came after much reflection and conversation with my family," Hocker said. "Together we determined that this opportunity was worth further exploration, although the idea of leaving Coeur d’Alene and no longer working with you makes it very difficult."

Hocker said he would be timely and transparent about decisions that will be made in the coming weeks.

"As the current superintendent of our district, my dedication to supporting our school community and advancing our shared goals remains," he said. "I will continue to lead and work alongside you in the best interest of our students just as we have done over the last three years."

Hocker's predecessor, Steve Cook, served the district from July 2018 to July 2021. Cook replaced Stan Olson, who led in an interim capacity during the 2017-18 school year. Olson replaced Trina Caudle, the district’s then-director of secondary education, who served as acting superintendent when the previous superintendent, Matt Handelman, resigned in April 2017. Handelman was hired as associate superintendent in 2010 and became superintendent in 2013.

By comparison, Post Falls Superintendent Dena Naccarato has been at the helm of the Post Falls School District since Aug. 1, 2020. She has been with her district since 2004, first as an assistant principal and then principal at Post Falls High School. She served as the assistant superintendent of secondary programs before stepping into the role of superintendent when Jerry Keane retired from the position at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Keane was with the district in various roles for 40 years.

Lakeland Joint School District Superintendent Lisa Arnold has led her district since July 1, 2022 when her predecessor, Becky Meyer, departed for a position as superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District after six years with Lakeland. Arnold worked as a teacher and administrator in Lakeland for 31 years before becoming the superintendent.

The Coeur d'Alene School District is currently working on correcting an expected $6 million shortfall for fiscal year 2025. Actions that have been discussed are the repurposing of Borah Elementary School, an alternating four-day/five-day school week and numerous staffing cuts.

Hocker and others on the district's leadership team have been deeply involved in discussions with the board about how to address this financial challenge.

"We have also been part of the ongoing collaboration with our building leaders and staff as we developed the budget reduction recommendations we presented to the board earlier this month," Director of Communications and Community Relations Stefany Bales said. "If Dr. Hocker leaves, we will certainly feel the absence of his leadership, but we will continue on the path he and the rest of our team have set."

In the event Hocker does leave the district, the board of trustees will decide how to proceed — whether to appoint an interim superintendent, begin a search for a new superintendent or take another direction. 

When asked why the district has experienced such high turnover of superintendents in the past decade, Bales said these are challenging times for public school leaders across the state and the country, and Coeur d'Alene is no exception.

"The specific and personal reasons superintendents may have had to leave our district in the past are their own," she said.