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Utah educators selected as finalists to lead state education office

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah educators have been selected as finalists to become the next state superintendent of public instruction, education leaders announced Thursday.

Taran Chun, a school administrator in the Alpine School District, and Sydnee Dickson, the interim state superintendent of public instruction, are the two final candidates being considered by the Utah State Board of Education.

The board began searching for a new superintendent after Brad Smith resigned from the position in March. Smith, an attorney and a former administrator in the Ogden School District, was hired to lead the Utah State Office of Education in fall 2014.

David Crandall, chairman of the State School Board, said he's optimistic about the final candidates. And in light of frequent turnover among education leadership, he hopes the next superintendent will be willing to serve for a longer period of time.

Final interviews for Chun and Dickson, which are open to the public, will begin at 4 p.m. on June 23 at the Utah State Office of Education, 250 E. 500 South in Salt Lake City. The interviews will also be streamed live, accessible through the board's website, schoolboard.utah.gov.

"We're excited to interview them next week and make a decision for the office and the board going forward," Crandall said. "We're looking for strong leadership to help the board in our work and to guide the office."

During the search process, a committee of board members conducted a public online survey asking Utahns what qualities they value in an education leader.

"What we did see was the desire to have somebody who's had experience with education, somebody who has a track record of strong leadership and somebody who is able to handle the political nuances with the position," Crandall said.

Crandall declined to say how many people applied for the position but noted that it was a national search. Semifinalists were interviewed last week.

In addition to working as principal of Mountain View High School in Orem, Chun is an adjunct professor at Utah Valley University and serves on the university's board of trustees. He is the lead evaluator for AdvancED, the accreditation body for K-12 schools in Utah. Chun has also worked in the Provo and Granite school districts. He holds a master's and doctorate degree in educational leadership.

Dickson has worked for the State School Board for several years in various capacities. During Smith's tenure, she served as deputy superintendent at the state education office, becoming the interim superintendent after Smith's resignation. She has previously worked in the Granite, Davis and Murray school districts in leadership roles. She holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy, and master's degrees in educational administration and school counseling.

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com

Twitter: MorganEJacobsen