Woodland Park RE-2 School District May Lose Current Superintendent

Neal Considered Top Finalist For Lucrative Position In Anchorage, Alaska

Trevor Phipps

During last year’s election, a red wave struck southern Colorado as the main school districts (including Woodland Park RE-2) gained new school board members who campaigned under the theme of representing the “conservative choice.”

This wave has produced political consequences. In recent months, two districts (District 11 in Colorado Springs and the Douglas County School District) have voted to terminate their superintendents, opting to hire new ones with similar views.  Another major Springs area, District 20, appears in constant turmoil over this new more conservative trend also

Ironically, Woodland Park has emerged as the one exception to the political  ouster of top leaders, although board meetings have attracted close to 300 people.  However, administrative changes could be coming to the City Above the Clouds.

In Woodland Park, Superintendent Dr. Mathew Neal has worked well with the new board and has started to implement some changes within the district. But, it was recently reported that Neal could be leaving the district which would force the board to find a replacement.

One change that has been recently made, included allowing parents to opt their children in or out of a classroom that teaches controversial subject matter. The move Neal made got national attention and he was featured on the Fox and Friends news show.

Ever since the new board got sworn in, the directors have praised the work Neal has done with the district. However, two weeks ago it was reported that Neal has applied for at least one other superintendent position.

According to an article published by Alaska Public Media, Dr. Neal has been picked as one of the top three finalists to head the district in Anchorage, Alaska. The school district announced that Neal was in the running for the position with Jharrett Bryantt (from the Houston Independent School District) and Frank Hauser (from the Sitka, Alaska School District).

The Anchorage superintendent position would be in charge of the state’s largest school district that has 43,000 students and employs a staff of 6,000. Comparatively, the Woodland Park school district serves 1,832 students and has a staff of around 250.

Last week, the district held their final interviews for the position. And they also held a community town hall meeting for all of the superintendent candidates.

During the town hall, participants were asked to fill out a feedback survey. The Anchorage school board plans to review all of the surveys and information received from staff and community members before they make their final decision.

If Dr. Neal gets offered the job and accepts it, he will have had one of the shortest tenures as Woodland Park’s superintendent in history. Dr. Neal was hired to the position in July 2021 after the district parted ways with their former superintendent Steve Woolf.

Neal previously had experience on the administrative teams in school districts in Colorado such as Denver Public schools and Durango. Most recently, Neal was the superintendent of the American Creativity Academy in Kuwait from 2015 to 2021.

According to school board president David Rusterholtz, other school districts across the nation started reaching out to Neal after he was featured on the Fox and Friends television show. “In January and February, that is the time when school districts are typically looking for superintendents,” Rusterholtz said. “And of course, just because a superintendent is employed at a district, doesn’t mean that they are not fair game. A lot of school boards that have switched to conservative boards are looking for people like Dr. Neal to be their superintendent. So that outreach is not something that is uncommon. He had a number of schools reach out to him and he said, ‘no,’ he was more than happy staying here. But then the Anchorage, Alaska school district reached out to him a number of times and he decided to send them his resume.”

Rusterholtz stressed that he would be very disappointed if Dr. Neal leaves for the new position in Alaska. “I think he is doing a wonderful job working with a board that wants to do so many new things,” the school board president said. “And then also, he has done a good job being that buffer between the staff, teachers, and administrators at the schools. It is a difficult job for him to do, but I think he is doing it extraordinarily well. And I just pray he doesn’t leave.”

Depending on the Anchorage school board’s decision that should be made in the next couple of weeks, the Woodland Park board may have to start looking for a new superintendent to take the reins for the ’22-’23 school year that starts this fall.