Board members bid an emotional farewell Tuesday in the Granite School District boardroom to former Superintendent Richard Nye, who was recently appointed as the senior education adviser in Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s administration.

"Dr. Nye, thank you. Thank you for infusing excellence, kindness and high expectations into all levels of our district and board, thank you for hiring such an excellent person to do the work," said Michell Jones, president of the Granite Education Association.

Filing Nye's shoes as superintendent — which board members explained were big both literally and figuratively — is Ben Horsley.

Horsley has been with the district for over 15 years, most recently serving as Nye's chief of staff for the past three years. Before that, Horsley worked as the district's director of communications and community outreach.

"We feel Dr. Nye has put us on a good trajectory, and we want that to continue," said Nicole McDermott, board president. "I would not be making this choice if I felt it compromised the education of my own children or the thousands of children that we are responsible for, so I want to voice my support that Mr. Horsley can continue moving the district on the trajectory that we are on."

Horsley was appointed unanimously, with board member Kim Chandler abstaining from voting, citing her disagreement with "the lack of a search process for a new superintendent and the ability that through that process that it would've had to interview a variety of candidates for the role."

Chandler added that she believes Horsley has done "very well" filling the requirements of his current role as chief of staff, and if it were a "business decision," Horsley's aforementioned performance would be a determining factor.

"As a board member, this decision is not a business decision. It is, rather, a vital matter of selecting someone who I feel best represents the values and ideals that I committed to represent when I ran for this role, and as such, is incumbent upon me to vote in that manner," Chandler said.

A release from the district said Horsley was one of the top candidates in its superintendent search three years ago, going on to say he is "uniquely qualified to step into this role and serve as superintendent at this time."

Ben Horsley talks with Jessica Dunn, executive director of Granite Education Association, after being appointed new superintendent at the Granite School District Board of Education during a special session in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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For Horsley, the appointment is the culmination of many years spent working around and with past superintendents. Horsley said he's eager to start building off the groundwork put in place by Nye.

"It's a little bit 'keep going,' but I look forward to getting out in our schools and listening and understanding what other outstanding concerns might be there," Horsley said. "I recognize the only way to help our students succeed is to make sure that our teachers have every resource necessary. I want to get out and be in our classrooms as much as possible and hear their concerns, listen to what they have to say and talk to our parents, listen to their concerns and make sure that Granite School District is their best choice."

Horsley's appointment will take effect on July 27, coinciding with Nye's last day with the district.

“I look forward to seeing the continued success of our students and schools in the years to come under Superintendent Horsley’s leadership and commitment and dedication of this board and employees of the Granite School District,” Nye said.

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