Shawnee Mission board taps Pattonville’s Michael Fulton as next superintendent, bringing lengthy search process to a close

Jay Senter - February 12, 2018 7:06 pm
Dr. Michael Fulton will be the next SMSD superintendent.

The question that’s hung over the Shawnee Mission School District since Jim Hinson unexpectedly announced his retirement last March got an answer at last on Monday.

With a unanimous vote at a specially called meeting, the board of education moved to offer Michael Fulton, currently the superintendent of Pattonville Pubic Schools outside St. Louis, Shawnee Mission’s top administrative position, bringing to an end a months-long search process.

Fulton was one of three finalists for the position brought to town over the weekend for a public meet-and-greet session as well as a second interview with the board. The other two finalists were Michael Muñoz, the superintendent of Rochester Public Schools in Minnesota, and Blane McCann, superintendent of the Westside School District in Omaha.

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Fulton’s three-year contract with Shawnee Mission comes with a base salary of $250,000 along with a car allowance. Fulton was being paid approximately $235,000 in his role in Pattonville in 2015, according to media reports from St. Louis. He is being paid more than $265,000 in Pattonville this year.

When Jim Hinson left the district, he was making $254,280 per year in salary with a $24,000 annual tax-sheltered annuity and a $1,000 per month automobile allowance included in his compensation package.

Members of the board of education met for several hours Saturday to review their interviews with the finalist candidates as well as the public feedback patrons and employees provided at the meet-and-greet sessions. Stratton said they arrived at a consensus around 7 p.m. Saturday night.

Upon making the announcement of the hire Monday, board members cited Fulton’s amiability and ease around people of all backgrounds in making him a good fit for the role.

“His warmth was apparent from the very beginning,” said board vice chair Patty Mach. “In my opinion, it was the most natural conversation that we had.”

Board Chair Brad Stratton said Fulton’s “genuineness” was among the factors that set him apart from the other two finalists, hinting that his temperament would allow him to build trust and rapport with parents and staff from “day one.” Strengthening those relationships, which became strained during Hinson’s tenure, appears to be among the board’s top priorities. Stratton said he and Fulton had already discussed some outreach efforts for his first weeks on the job.

“What he’s already asked in terms of questions speaks exactly to the type of priorities this community has identified for us,” Stratton said.

Still, acclimating to Shawnee Mission will require a significant adjustment for Fulton. With its 27,000 students, Shawnee Mission is approximately five times as large as Pattonville. And having spent the past two dozen years working in Missouri, the intricacies of the Kansas K-12 school funding battles will require quick study.

Fulton announced his retirement from Pattonville Public Schools in December after being with the district for 23 years, the past 11 as superintendent. He’s well regarded among Missouri public school leaders for his work there, having won the Robert L. Pearce Award in 2014 and being named Missouri Superintendent of the Year in 2016.

Here’s video of Monday’s special meeting:

SMSD hires Michael Fulton as new superintendent.

The Shawnee Mission Board of Education votes to hire Dr. Michael Fulton of the Pattonville School District in the St. Louis area as its new superintendent.

Posted by Shawnee Mission Post on Monday, February 12, 2018

The district’s press release on the hiring is here:

Shawnee Mission Board of Education Unanimously Appoints Dr. Mike Fulton as Superintendent

The Shawnee Mission Board of Education voted to appoint Dr. Michael Fulton to be the new Shawnee Mission School District superintendent. The unanimous vote to approve his contract took place at a special board meeting at 7 p.m. this evening.

“The Shawnee Mission Board of Education is excited to introduce Dr. Michael Fulton as our new superintendent,” said Brad Stratton, president of the Shawnee Mission Board of Education. “After a lengthy and engaging search process, Dr. Fulton rose to the top as the right leader for our district, both now and into the future. We are very grateful to the greater Shawnee Mission community for all the input, engagement and insight into our search process as we moved through each step over the past months. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Fulton to the Shawnee Mission family as we embark on the next chapter of new beginnings in the Shawnee Mission school district.”

The board was committed to a rigorous national search process aided by Ray & Associates. The board received clear and comprehensive feedback from the community through focus groups, community meetings and online surveys to build a profile of an ideal candidate. Consistent themes requested by the community included a student-first philosophy along with an ability to build consensus among individuals and groups with an emphasis on parent involvement.

“The community asked for a leader who possesses the ability to enhance student performance and implement strategies to narrow gaps in student achievement,” added Stratton. “We can say with confidence that Dr. Fulton meets every single item listed on the community-generated profile.”

Linda Sieck, president of NEA-Shawnee Mission, was provided the opportunity to meet with each candidate and share her written feedback with the board members. Mrs. Sieck communicated with the local NEA president from each candidate’s district and was able to share input from those conversations with the board, as well. “I appreciated the opportunity to be the voice of the teachers in this district during this interview process.”

Dr. Mike Fulton served the Pattonville School District for 23 years, the past 11 as superintendent. Prior to Pattonville, which is in the greater St. Louis area, he taught middle school, served as assessment coordinator, and taught fifth and sixth grades.

During Fulton’s time in Pattonville, the district evolved into one of the most diverse school districts in Missouri and the nation. As diversity grew, so did the district’s academic performance. Pattonville received national recognition by engaging students, parents, staff and community members to create learning solutions that improve student academic success, promote responsible citizenship and prepare students for college and career.

Dr. Fulton believes that the administration must work closely and collaboratively with the teachers and individual schools to plan for continuous improvement. The past three years, Pattonville has been recognized as a top workplace among large employers in the St. Louis region, a result of an anonymous survey of Pattonville staff.

Just like Shawnee Mission School District, Pattonville has had its high school recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a top high school in the United States.

Fulton has chaired or co-chaired several statewide committees related to student learning, assessment and accountability. This work involved bringing together a variety of stakeholders to collaborate on initiatives that support students throughout the state. He was also named Missouri Superintendent of the Year in 2016.

Fulton has a doctoral degree in education from Saint Louis University, a master’s degree from Illinois State University and a bachelor’s degree from Southwest Missouri State University. Mike and his wife Katy have four grown children, all of whom graduated from Pattonville Schools.

When Dr. Fulton moves into his new role on July 1, he will become the eighth superintendent to lead the Shawnee Mission School District. He replaces current Interim Superintendent Dr. Kenny Southwick, who has served in that role since last summer.

To see Dr. Fulton’s message to the community that was played at the board meeting, click here.

(The video’s embedded below, too:)

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