The Utah State School Board decided Thursday to name Joel Coleman as interim Superintendent of Public instruction. Coleman will hold the place until the board chooses a permanent replacement this fall. But the board was divided on the appointment.
Coleman was an LDS seminary teacher, a city councilman and a member of the state board of education. Most recently he held the post of Superintendent of Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Dave Thomas is the vice chair of the state school board. He says Coleman will be an effective interim leader of Utah schools.
“We have seen him in action,” Thomas says. “We have seen him perform and his personality is such that he is a dynamic people person who gets along with various people, various circumstances.”
But Thursday night’s vote was nearly split as several board members questioned the decision, concerned about a possible conflict of interest. Coleman’s wife, Kim Coleman, the former head of Utah charter school the Monticello Academy recently filed a lawsuit against the state charter board. But Thomas contends there is enough separation between the charter board and the duties of the state superintendent to avoid any conflicts.
“They’re housed in the same building and there is substantial interaction between them,” Thomas says. “What the executive committee suggested is that we wall him off from any of those contacts.”
State Superintendent Martell Menlove left the post sooner than expected. His last day in the office was Thursday. And earlier this month, his deputy, Brenda Hales announced her resignation as well.
The full board also appointed Dr. Sydnee Dickson as Deputy Superintendent. She’s currently Director of Educator Quality and Licensing at the state office.
Coleman has said he will not apply for a permanent appointment to the post.