Three finalists named for D2 superintendent roles

Harrison School District the state’s first to embrace dual leadership model

What started as a field of 31 is now down the three.

A trio of proven educational leaders will make their final bids to the Harrison School District Two (D2) board in the coming weeks, vying for the right to co-helm the schools via one of two superintendent posts.

Thirty-one hopefuls applied to fill the posts. After several rounds of interviews and reviews, five semifinalists spoke to a packed house at Harrison High School’s Zalman Center on March 5.

Wendy Birhanzel, John Rogerson and Elizabeth Domangue were announced as the three finalists March 6. Ron Wagner, an associate superintendent at Minneapolis Public Schools and D2 Operations Officer Mark Wilsey rounded out the panel.

The district became the first in the state to embrace the multiple-administrator model after the resignation of Andre Spencer. The system has been in place on an interim basis for nine months, and the hopefuls explained how shared leadership can grow teacher retention and reboot a culture that hasn’t always focused on student and staff support.

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]

Wendy Birhanzel

Birhanzel has worked with the district for about a decade. An expert in urban education and curriculum development, the 42-year-old is currently a co-chief operating officer at the district 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.

“My whole career and my whole life has kind of prepared me for this,” she said in an interview.

“We need someone who is going to be here long lasting,” she told the crowd, citing a statistic that shows the average superintendent lasts about 2 ½ years. “This model allows us to provide more support to schools, more support to district offices and more support to students.

“If this is what our student, what our district, what all of our community needs to ensure our students are successful … this is what we need to do in our district.”

John Rogerson

Rogerson, the chief of secondary education, operations, human resources and student support services, among others, co-leads the district with Birhanzel. The 14-year district leader brings experience in the classroom and the boardroom, having been principal at Fox Meadow middle and Giberson elementary schools.

He holds a superintendent certificate from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs; a masters in educational leadership from Capella University and bachelors degrees from UCCS and Northeastern Illinois University.

“You’re modeling for your community, your school, your students, the collaborative work that you expect them to step into when they graduate,” Rogerson said. “You need people who are practiced at this, that have been able to tackle deep problems such as passing the bond, taking a look at our paid compensation model and all the different aspects so we don’t ignore all the different things that are going on.

“Our community deserves two superintendents who can work together, look at these different issues and resolve them together. … We can not have leadership in isolation any longer.”

Elizabeth Domangue

Domangue is an associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado but has deep roots with the district. She was previously assistant principal of Harrison School, principal of Panorama Middle School and the district director of secondary curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Domangue, 40, earned a doctorate in achievement and motivational theories in education from Louisiana State University, and maintains principal and administrative endorsements from the Colorado Department of Education.

“The proximity to each other requires trust and communication and dedication,” she said. “It’s going to require us to lean into stakeholders: Our students and our staff and our community partners, and our parents.

“That’s an essential component for all of the leaders in this room, we have to bring along everybody with us.”

The three finalists will undergo another round of interviews with board, and expectations are high that the permanent superintendents will be announced this month.

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