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First 2 finalists interviewed for Billings schools superintendent

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Posted at 10:01 PM, Mar 28, 2023

BILLINGS — Members of the school board and others from Billings school faculty gathered at the Lincoln Center Tuesday night as the first two of four candidates for school superintendent were interviewed.

Both are from out of state: Dr. Erwin Garcia of Texas and Dr. Matthew Neal of Colorado. Both interviewed for an hour with members of the Billings school board.

First to interview was, Garcia who’s currently the area superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.

"If you’re looking for someone that’s going to challenge and push, with kindness and love for all, you have the right person in front of you," said Garcia Tuesday evening.

He currently oversees 53 schools, 24,000 students and helped lift the overall state accountability rating of his portfolio of schools from 10 A-rated campuses to 30, in a two-year span.

"We have to have goals that can be measured and be tracked. Those goals have to short-term and long-term but they have to be connected to the vision. What is it that ultimately, we want? And if we want children to be global citizens, what can we offer to them, starting in pre-K so they can be global citizens?" added Garcia.

Next up was Neal.

"I’ve been in education more than two decades, leading schools. So, I have a real good balance between the operational side and the academic side leading schools in Denver public schools," said Neal Tuesday evening.

Neal is currently the chief executive officer of Woodland Park School District in Colorado. He was the district's acting superintendent before moving into a permanent position in 2022. He’s also held superintendent positions in Kuwait and Wyoming.

"I actually substitute taught last year one day a month in almost all of our schools just to be in our schools and be connected. So, I’m a very, hands on, engaged leader," added Neal.

The four finalists were selected from a group of 25 that were invited to apply after a search conducted by GR Recruiting.

The next two finalists, Thom Peck, superintendent of Lewistown Public Schools, and Brenda Koch, the K-12 executive director of Billings Public Schools, will be interviewed by the school board Thursday.

The board is seeking to replace outgoing Superintendent Greg Upham, who is retiring at the end of this school year.