Semifinalists webready

Harrison School District Two dual superintendent semifinalists (from left) Wendy Birhanzel, Elizabeth Domangue, John Rogerson and Mark Wisley prepare to answer questions at a March 5 community forum. Not pictured is semifinalist Ron Wagner. [Express Photo/Regan Foster]

Harrison School District board sticks with dual-COO model after superintendent search

Harrison School District 2 is sticking with its two-chief operating officer model, for now.

That was the decision Monday, following a special meeting of the district’s Board of Education. It means current chiefs Wendy Birhanzel and John Rogerson will maintain their positions, splitting the district’s leadership obligations.

It also brings to an end an effort to whittle down from a field of three the pair that would serve as dual superintendents.

“The Harrison School District Two Board of Education has discussed, at length, the dual superintendent hiring decision,” the district board announced Tuesday via a prepared statement. “All three finalists were very impressive.

“At this time the board agrees the best course of action is to have Dr. Wendy Birhanzel and Mr. John Rogerson continue serving as co-chief operating officers, and therefore, senior leaders for the district. Given the innovation of dual leadership, the board will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.”

Related content:

*No decision yet on D2 superintendents*

*Three finalists named for D2 superintendent roles*

Birhanzel and Rogerson have been at the helm for almost a year. They took over on an interim basis following the May 2018 resignation of then-Superintendent Andre Spencer, and the district had pursued splitting the superintendent’s duties between two chief executives.

It would have made District 2 the first in the state to pursue such a leadership plan.

From a field of 31, the district named three finalists – Birhanzel, Rogerson Elizabeth Domangue, an associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado. Choosing the next pair proved an arduous task that included private interviews, meetings with a selection committee, a public forum, and a second round of board interviews.

But on March 21, an emotional board deadlocked over what pair would best lead the economically, socially and ethnically diverse 11,700-student district.

“You come down to three candidates and you look at the strengths of all three, and you go, ‘Wow, I wish we could smoosh them all together and get the best of all worlds,’” board vice president Linda Pugh said during the March board meeting.

“Given the innovation of dual leadership, the board will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.” – Harrison School District 2 Board of Education

Birhanzel has worked at the district for about a decade. An expert in urban education and curriculum development, she is the co-chief operating officer at the district and is in charge of elementary schools, finance, curriculum and instruction, among other responsibilities.

She earned a doctorate in educational leadership in urban school settings from the University of Southern California, and she put that education into action here while serving as principal of both Centennial and Wildflower elementary schools.

Rogerson is the chief of secondary education, operations, human resources and student support services, among others. The 14-year D2 veteran brings experience in the classroom and the boardroom, having been principal of both Fox Meadow middle and Giberson elementary schools.

He holds a superintendent certificate from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; a master’s in educational leadership from Capella University and bachelor’s degrees from UCCS and Northeastern Illinois University.