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School board reveals third superintendent finalist

The Dickinson Public School Board on Monday released the name of a third finalist for the role of superintendent, Justin Fryer, a superintendent in the Solen Public School District.

The Dickinson Public School Board on Monday released the name of a third finalist for the role of superintendent, Justin Fryer, a superintendent in the Solen Public School District.

The reason he was not named earlier was because the two named candidates, Shon Hocker and Matthew Cheeseman, were considered more ideal for the role than Fryer is due to their experience in managing large school districts.

"Our plan was to interview two. Not that we can't interview Mr. Fryer ... but in this particular case the two candidates we brought in to do final interviews on Friday and meet the public, we felt their experience put them that much ahead," Dickinson School Board President Brent Seaks said following Monday's meeting. "So they were the top two candidates, but all three are finalists."

Of these three finalists, only two will be available to meet the Dickinson public on Thursday, where Hocker and Cheeseman will be touring the city and schools and meeting with the media and public.

"Right now we have two that we identified as the top candidates, but if these candidates do not meet or exceed our expectations, we will bring Mr. Fryer in," Seaks said.

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Hocker and Cheeseman are both from out of state, so the district has paid to have them brought in for in-person interviews. These travel costs are handled by the district's search firm, who will bill the district later. Fryer lives in Solen, N.D., south of Bismarck. Seaks said their willingness to invest taxpayer money demonstrates the board's confidence in the ability of their chosen candidates.

The big deciding factor was experience in managing large school districts, Seaks said.

"For us, that experience piece was a big one. These other candidates you're looking at, one has a district of 1,150, one is superintendent of a school district of 1,650," he said. "When you look at them coming into the superintendent role for Dickinson public schools, which is pushing 4,000 ... that was really an important factor. So I'd hope the public would see that."

Fryer has been superintendent in Solen since 2013, where for the district of some 200 students he handled staff recruitment, wrote and was awarded grants, oversaw visits from important public leaders and retained all certified staff for his superintendency thus far. His resume states he has written over 30 school grants and he has 14 years of experience in education and leadership.

"I believe in school leadership and know how to motivate others and have the ability to communicate thoughts, ideas and plans extraordinarily well," Fryer states on his resume. His career history shows him starting out teaching first grade in Somerton, Ariz.

This superintendent search has drawn criticism for its secrecy from some members of the public, and that criticism continued at the start of Monday's meeting, when Dickinson Press Publisher and Editor Harvey Brock delivered a public comment to the board.

"I understand hiring a superintendent is a challenge for a volunteer school board, and we appreciate the work the board puts in achieving that," Brock said. "I'm not here to question who should be hired or not or to question the merits of your process. I do believe however the four applicants' names who meet the minimum requirements for the position ... should by law have been released before and not after they were interviewed on Thursday. The school board's action of releasing only two of the four applicants ... violates law."

Brock asserted that the law doesn't allow them to parcel out the applicant information.

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"Nowhere in the law does it say you may choose to release the names of only two," Brock said. "I understand that mistakes happen, but I believe the names of the four applicants interviewed on Thursday ... are open records and should be released as soon as possible."

Seaks said that a new superintendent would be identified "soon."

Public interviews with Hocker and Cheeseman are scheduled for April 20.The board narrowed the selection of candidates for superintendent down to four candidates from a list of 10 provided by the search firm they hired, Ray and Associates.

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