APS chooses former higher ed chief Munn to lead district

Munn, a lawyer and professor, is the only of four final candidates not to currently be employed by a public school district

By ADAM GOLDSTEIN Staff Writer

AURORA | The Aurora Public Schools District Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday night to bring on former state colleges chief  D. Rico Munn as the district’s new superintendent.

The board agreed to negotiate a contract with Munn to begin July 1, when current APS Superintendent John Barry steps down. Munn is a litigation partner at Baker and Hostetler, LLP, and an adjunct professor of law at the University of Denver Sturm

Rico Munn
Rico Munn

College of Law. Munn is also the former executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Board member Dan Jorgensen provided the lone no vote, offering his support instead for Denver Public Schools Deputy Chief Academic Officer for Teaching and Learning Tracy Ann Dorland.

Jorgensen added that his vote would not stop him from giving his full support to Munn as the district’s new superintendent.

The vote followed a weekend of interviews and tours with Munn and three other candidates. Dorland, Denver Public Schools Instructional Superintendent Randy Johnson and former Boulder Valley School District Thomas Seigel were also in the running for the APS superintendent post.

Munn was the only candidate for the position who is not currently employed by a school district. In comments to the media last week, Munn said his experience in law and higher education would serve as advantages at APS, a district with more than 37,000 students.

“I think you’re seeing a lot candidates these days who have a blended background, and that’s what I have. I have very deep ties in education, I have very deep ties in business and I have very deep ties in law,” Munn said. “When you look at the reality of what school districts are, they’re very complex organizations, and this is a half-billion dollar entity, that is a good background to bring.”

During Monday’s board meeting, members praised Munn’s background and what some called his “nontraditional” experience. The term echoed the hiring process of current Barry, whose background was primarily military-based when he was hired in 2006.

“I truly believe that things need to be looked at differently,” said APS Board Member Cathy Wildman. “I know when John came on … he talked about a different light shining on what we’re doing. I guess I really want to see that with (this) candidate.”

After the vote, the board called an executive session to start finalizing the details of the contract.

Munn currently serves on the 15-member Board of Governors for the Colorado State University System, appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.  He was also a member of Gov. Bill Ritter’s cabinet as executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies from 2007-2009 and then executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education from 2009-2011.  He served on the Colorado State Board of Education from 2003-2007.

Last year, Barry, who started as APS superintendent in July 2006, said he will leave before his contract expires so that the current board can choose his successor. Because of term expirations and limits, the board could change by as many as four members after its election in 2013. Barry, whose contract ends in 2014, said he wanted the current iteration of the board to pick the next APS superintendent.

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at agoldstein@aurorasentinel.com or 720-449-9707

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