South Routt school superintendent down to 5 finalists |

South Routt school superintendent down to 5 finalists

The school board hopes to conduct in-person interviews and community meet-and-greet events with candidates in the coming weeks.

Soroco High School.
Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

The South Routt Board of Education named four additional finalists in its search for the district’s next superintendent on Monday, March 7, adding to the one finalist that has already been interviewed.

A candidate becomes a finalist when the board decides it wants to interview him or her after reviewing the candidate’s initial application materials.

The district’s current superintendent, Rim Watson, whose impending retirement at the end of the school year has the board looking for a new leader of the district, said the board initially named three finalists in February, but just one was able to travel to South Routt for an in-person interview and community meet-and-greet.

After trying to set up multiple in-person interviews, Watson said the board attempted to set up a virtual interview with the other two candidates, but that too fell through.

“Of the original three finalists, one of them actually came for a meet-and-greet and interview,” Watson said. “The board was not comfortable making a decision based on one interview, so they charged the district office with reposting.”

The posting for the job was circulated for another two weeks “anywhere and everywhere,” with it closing last Friday, March 4. This garnered several more quality applicants, and the board then met for a special meeting on Monday, where it approved a list of five current finalists.

“Board members are really pleased and impressed with the number and quality of superintendent applications we have received,” Watson said. “There are multiple high-quality candidates from which the board can select.”

Watson said he was currently working to set up in-person interviews with the other finalists and hoped to have those complete in the next two weeks, hopefully bringing in each candidate on a separate night.


Melina Sahalka, currently a college and careers director at Job Corps in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, was the candidate of the initial finalists announced that was able to travel to the Yampa Valley for an in-person interview. Sahalka has been with Job Corps since July 2019, before that working as an instructor at Western Washington University, according to her LinkedIn.

Christopher Burr is currently the principal of Mill Creek Middle School in Newton, North Carolina, a role he started in May of last year. Burr has worked in education for about 25 years, with about 15 of those being in administration, according to the school. He was previously superintendent of the Upper Rio Grande School District in rural southwest Colorado.

Kirk Henwood is currently the superintendent of the Walsh School District, according to his LinkedIn. The district is in the southeastern Colorado town of Walsh, which has a population just over 500. He has spent much of his career with the Montrose County School District, where he was deputy superintendent from 2012 to 2017. After that, he worked as an adjunct professor in education leadership at the University of Northern Colorado.

Steven Priest is currently a junior and senior high school principal in the Carbon County School District, just across the Wyoming boarder north of Routt County. Priest started as a science teacher in the district in 2012 before becoming principal in 2015, according to his LinkedIn. Before that, Priest was an agricultural education teacher in Ohio for about 10 years.

Mike Vagher is currently the district safety and chief operating officer in the Lake County School District in Leadville. There, Vagher is also the Title IX coordinator for the district and oversees the athletics, transportation, custodial and maintenance departments, according to the district’s website.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.