Community meets third ‘super’ finalist

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SANDPOINT — With deep roots in the community and an extensive background in education, it is no surprise that Sandpoint High School Principal Tom Albertson made the list of top three finalists for the Lake Pend Oreille School District’s superintendent position.

Born and raised in Sandpoint, Albertson said his grandfather came to the area and purchased his family’s cattle ranch in 1916. Now his grandkids are the fifth generation raised in Sandpoint, he said, and two of them are attending or will attend Northside Elementary — the same school that gave Albertson his start in education.

“Understanding the rural community, understanding the importance of those small schools, and also being connected to this community runs deep.”

Albertson also said he is a “champion” for public education.

“Everything that we do needs to go back to student learning, needs to go back to increased student achievement in the classrooms,” he said. “... I’ll always go back to my roots, and administrative decisions will go back to me as a classroom teacher and what’s best for students.”

Albertson was the third finalist this week to meet with stakeholders during a community/parent “Meet the Candidate” forum at Sandpoint High School, moderated by Kendon Perry. On Monday, finalist Paul Peterson from Scappoose, Ore., met with the community, followed by Dr. Paula Vincent on Tuesday and Albertson on Wednesday. Each finalist spent a full day meeting with different stakeholder groups, culminating in a dinner and interview with Lake Pend Oreille School Board members.

To assist with the search for a superintendent, LPOSD officials recently retained the services of consultants with McPherson and Jacobson, LLC, who ultimately reviewed, screened, and conducted background checks on 27 qualified applicants. LPOSD board members narrowed the applications down to the three finalists last week.

Albertson has 10 years of administrative experience, the last five of those as the principal at SHS. He was the school’s assistant principal for five years before that, and served as the athletic director as well. Prior to becoming an administrator, Albertson was a math teacher for 22 years.

He holds an educational specialist degree, a master’s degree in educational leadership, and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Idaho.

In answering questions posed by Perry, Albertson talked about the importance of college and career readiness, with the need to expand programs such as career-technical education while staying within budget.

One example, he said, is the addition of an advanced placement computer science course at SHS for next year, though no additional staff was hired. Through altering a dual credit contemporary math course, the school was able to adjust resources to make it happen, he said.

“It’s not this unlimited amount of money that we can just keep adding programs, but when we see a need, we have to adjust and be creative in how we can get these students ready, whether it be for college or a career,” he said.

Albertson also touched on issues the district faces that will be on the new superintendent’s plate, such as funding and aging facilities. He has a 120-day plan ready to be implemented if he is chosen as superintendent, he said, and those two issues are at the top of the list.

The 120-day plan was listed as one of his strengths during a debriefing between Perry and the small group of community members in attendance after Albertson departed.

The group also said he was methodical and level-headed, and his concern for students was apparent. Because many of the community members know Albertson, it was said he has a “talent for diffusing situations,” noted from his days as an athletic director. His deep roots in the community was also mentioned as a strength, though it was brought up as a concern as well as a question of perspective — whether he could look outside the district and see what could be beneficial as far as new ideas.

LPOSD board members are meeting in executive session at 7:30 a.m. today to decide which of the three candidates, if any, will lead the district as its newest superintendent.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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