SALT LAKE CITY — Two men and one woman were named finalists Wednesday for the next superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District.

“What has been at the forefront of my mind is to make sure that we find a leader who can truly represent our vibrant community here in Salt Lake — someone who knows how to listen, someone with integrity and someone who will put our students first. I feel that each of the three finalists ... meets the criteria we’ve been searching for,” said Salt Lake City Board of Education President Melissa Ford.

The finalists are:

  • Jharrett Bryantt, an executive leader in the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest school district in the United States.
  • Wendy González, superintendent of Page County Public Schools in Luray, Virginia.
  • Timothy Gadson, associate superintendent of high schools with Anoka-Hennepin Schools in Anoka, Minnesota.
Timothy Gadson, Wendy Gonzalez and Jharrett Bryantt are the three finalists for the next superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District. | Salt Lake City School District Board of Education

The finalists’ names were announced during a press conference on the front steps of the district administration offices. The board received 33 applications for the position with candidates from 19 states.

“Our goal was to select candidates who would best represent what our community was looking for. We feel we’ve done that with these three finalists. And now we need to ask for our community input one more time to make sure we choose the right person for the Salt Lake City schools,” said Nate Salazar, school board vice president.

Nate Salazar, vice president of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education, speaks about the three finalists for the superintendent position during a press conference outside of the district’s office in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Although the selection process has largely been conducted virtually due to the ongoing pandemic, each of the finalists will travel to Salt Lake City next week to visit schools and talk to employees, students, parents and community stakeholders, Salazar said. They will also participate in interviews to be broadcast on the school district’s YouTube channel next week.

More about finalists

Bryantt was appointed an assistant superintendent in Houston schools in 2016, overseeing college readiness, advanced academics and innovative initiatives for the district. In 2019, Bryantt was recognized in Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 list in education for expanding access to postsecondary opportunities for Houston students.

He received both his master’s in education in 2016 and his doctoral degree in education policy and leadership from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. His undergraduate degree was earned at Yale University.

González has 28 years of experience as a public educator. Prior to her superintendency, she served as the director of teaching, learning and accountability in Charles City County, Virginia, and as the coordinator of accountability and assessment for Williamsburg-James City County Schools in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Earlier in her career, González held a variety of leadership positions with diverse populations as an assistant principal, dean of students and a school improvement coach in Chesterfield County, Virginia, where she also taught for many years at her alma mater. She began her teaching career in Rockingham County, Virginia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from James Madison University.

González also holds a master’s degree in education and human development in educational leadership and administration, and a doctorate in educational administration and policy studies from George Washington University.

González announced in January that she would leave Page County Public Schools at the end of the school year to move closer to family. She has been superintendent of the school district since July 1, 2018, when she signed a three-year contract.

Gadson received his bachelor’s degree in business economics and secondary education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.

He has served as an assistant principal and principal at various levels in Broward County and Palm Beach County. He was also district director of secondary education while employed with Palm Beach County School District. He also led reform and transformation efforts at several high schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a private firm from 2010-12.

Gadson supervised high school operations for the Austin (Texas) Independent School District, served as associate superintendent with Atlanta Public Schools and was executive director of curriculum and schools with Robbinsdale Area Schools in New Hope, Minnesota. 

He is also a finalist for superintendency of the North Clackamas School District southeast of Portland, Oregon, according to the district website. The school board is scheduled to name its new superintendent on Thursday evening. 

The Salt Lake City School District serves 21,460 students K-12. Ethnic minorities make up more than half of its head count. The district serves a significant refugee population. Some 54% of Salt Lake students come from low-income households and more than one-third of its students are learning English as a second language. Some 90 languages are spoken by families in the school district.

Larry Madden, a longtime science educator and administrator, has served as interim superintendent since July. He did not seek a permanent appointment and plans to retire from the school district later this year.

Madden succeeded Superintendent Lexi Cunningham, who along with the school district’s business administrator Janet Roberts, resigned last year amid conflict with the board and divisions among board members themselves. Cunningham and Roberts served until the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Cunningham was later selected as the executive director of the Utah School Superintendents Association.