The Olathe Board of Education is expected to tap the superintendent of Wichita Public Schools as its next superintendent.
John Allison is the sole finalist for the position and visited the Olathe school district Wednesday for a final tour and interview.
The superintendent position is expected to be finalized at a special boarding meeting Dec. 19. If he is approved, Allison’s first day would be July 1.
Allison has been superintendent in Wichita since 2009, when he was unanimously chosen by Wichita school board members over then-Wichita Assistant Superintendent Denise Wren. He had been serving in Pennsylvania as superintendent of the Mount Lebanon School District, a suburb of Pittsburgh, for two years previously.
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Before that he had been deputy superintendent of the Grapevine-Colleyville School District in Texas and associate superintendent for education services of the Shawnee Mission School District, in addition to other teaching and administration roles. Allison is a graduate of the University of Kansas and received his master’s degree from Emporia State University. According to a release, he completed doctoral course work in Education Leadership at St. Louis University and Southwestern College.
He is 52 years old.
“His experience as a superintendent really stood out to us,” Olathe Board of Education President Rick Schier said. “He’s been in that position for nine years working in the largest school district in the state of Kansas.”
Schier also cited Allison’s experience building relationships with legislators and with budgets and finances as strengths that piqued the board’s interest. The Olathe school district is preparing to open its fifth high school, Olathe West, and Allison has overseen the opening of new schools, Schier said.
In a memo sent to Wichita Public Schools faculty on Wednesday, Allison wrote that he had not initially sought out the position, but considered it after the death of his father from an illness earlier this year. His mother still lives in the Kansas City area.
“As difficult as this loss has been for my family, the opportunity to consider a position that would allow me to continue to provide leadership for public education in Kansas while at the same time being close enough to support my mother was one I couldn’t ignore,” Allison said in his memo.
Allison would fill a vacancy left by Marlin Berry, who served as Olathe superintendent for six years before departing this past May for a superintendent post in Rogers, Ark. Retired Olathe Superintendent Patricia All has served as interim superintendent of the nearly 30,000-student school district, the state’s second-largest district, since July. Wichita Public Schools is the largest district in the state with 51,000 students.
Earlier this year, the Olathe Board of Education used a superintendent search firm, Ray and Associates, to conduct a national search, said Maggie Kolb, Olathe district communications director. It vetted several candidates after collecting faculty, parent and student feedback in focus groups this fall.
“We reached out to the community, staff and district administrators and we did a fair amount of focus groups,” Schier said. “We thought it was vitally important to get their input.”
Roughly 50 applications were narrowed down, and six face-to-face interviews conducted, Schier said.
Kolb said that Allison’s salary has yet to be negotiated. According to the Wichita district, Allison’s base salary was $229,408 this year, before he received a $3,441 one-time bonus. His contract had recently been extended through 2019.
Allison is married to Ramie Allison, who began her teaching career at Olathe’s Countryside Elementary. The couple have two children —a son, Cade, a KU graduate who lives in Dallas, and daughter, Cooper, who attends Kansas State University.