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Public meets first Grand Forks superintendent candidate: Dennis Goodwin

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ)--On Monday evening, students,  parents, and teachers got their first look at who could be the next leader of the Grand Forks School District.

Dennis Goodwin was the first to step up to the podium.

Goodwin is one of three finalists to be the next school superintendent in Grand Forks.

On Monday night, the public met him face to face - and they didn't hold back with questions they wanted answered.

“We have actually had students in the past few years complete suicide so my question to you is what role do you think schools have in addressing these issues?” asked one audience member.

“We brought in a program called capturing kids hearts and what it is is it deals specifically with this our first year we reduced the number of bullying complaints by 67% of our middle school alone,” said Goodwin.

About two dozen people crammed into the Sanford Education to meet Dennis Goodwin.

After three years as a school superintendent in Arizona - and despite pressure to stay - Goodwin is quitting - saying state lawmakers there don't give enough funding to education, and wouldn't not allow him to do his job.

“I get along with the personality of the upper midwest people I like their attitude towards education their philosophy about that,” said Goodwin.

Goodwin is no stranger to the region--he spent nearly three decades as a school administrator in Minnesota before making his way to the Southwest.

Coming back though won't be an easy task. The Grand Forks district is strapped for cash and on the verge of closing schools to stay afloat--a  top concern for some at the Monday night meeting.

“Would you ensure even during lean times like we've been experiencing lately that our students and our teachers even at the secondary level have the materials they need to be successful?” asked one audience member.

“So my push has been to put the money in the classroom where it benefits the kids the most. We’ve kept our classrooms small, we’d keep them below twenty four,” said Goodwin.

Others worried how Goodwin would react if the public did not see eye to eye with him on a hot button issue.

“I was wondering if you could provide an example of maybe when you were faced with diametrically opposed opinions and you were able to bridge a gap between those or to build a positive working relationship,” asked another audience member.

“I think, you know, two of my reference letters are from union presidents, and I take great pride in that, because I was able to not agree with them on everything, and they didn’t agree with everything with the board, and the board didn’t agree with them, but I was able to be a mediator for those individuals to come up with a positive solution that both felt was amicable to the district,” Goodwin responded.

Now to compare, Goodwin is coming from a school district in Arizona with 17 hundred students.

The Grand Forks School district is nearly four times that size, with 72 hundred students.

WDAZ had more questions, but the Grand Forks School District said we could only ask one.

WDAZ asked the 60-year old why he is the right fit to be the next superintendent of schools in Grand Forks.

“There’s a lot of issues that--with the planning, the strategic component, the technology, the facilities--these are all areas that I have focused on in my career. I find them enjoyable and fun to work with. Opportunities to get out and talk to a lot of people--that seemed to be one of the things that people are really looking for, and that fits really well into my personality and my style,” said Goodwin.

The two other candidates will meet with the public on Tuesday and Thursday at 5 O’clock PM at the Sandford Center.

The school board hopes to pick a new superintendent Thursday night, but they admit the process could carry over into the next week.