During his interview, Hudnell said it is an exciting time to be in public education in Utah because he believes the state is on the verge of becoming "the best of the best." But, he said, the greatest obstacle facing the state is a resistance to change.
"We have too many educators who are comfortable where they are," Hudnell said. "We have too many educators who don't want to change."
Sentance also spoke of a need for change, but said the problem lies more in top-down leadership than at the educator level.
"I think the biggest obstacle at the moment is that you don't challenge schools sufficiently," he said. "Raising the expectations for what is coming out of schools of education, what's coming out of classrooms, is the first step to achieving greatness here."
Toward the end of his interview, Sentance's opposition to the Common Core — a set of college- and career-ready benchmarks voluntarily adopted by states around the country — drew questions from the board about his ability to reconcile his views with that of board members, who have voted to endorse the new standards.
Sentance said adoption of educational benchmarks is ultimately the board's decision, and his job as superintendent would be to support that decision. He added that states could potentially create better standards on their own. Massachusetts, he said, had better standards before adopting the Common Core.
"You don't sell the best standards in the country away for 30 pieces of federal silver," Sentance said.
The three finalists were chosen by a selection committee comprised of state education and government officials, as well as representatives from the community. The selection committee set a shorter period for accepting and screening applications than in the past, a decision that drew criticism from a group of Republican state lawmakers.
Board Chairwoman Debra Roberts said it was necessary to name a successor quickly to ensure a smooth transition and allow the new superintendent to be adequately prepared for the upcoming Legislative session.
Despite the shortened timeline, Roberts said there was no doubt in her mind that Menlove was the right man for the job, adding that stakeholders had ranked him highest among the finalists. She said the selection process had been rigorous and thorough, putting enormous pressure on office of education staff.
"This has been an extremely stressful month," she said. "I can't even express how positive it is to have that decision made."
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