Coolican, Wallace Named Lansing Superintendent Finalists

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After months of talking about the kind of superintendent Lansing needs, the Lansing Board of Education picked two men Monday night they believe fit closest to that mold.

James Coolican, the superintendent of the Peninsula School Distrct in Gig Harbor, Wash. and Dr. T.C. Wallace, Jr., the superintendent in Mount Clemens, emerged as finalists from a group of nine candidates.

Board members describe Coolican as enthusiastic and thorough in his interview last week. Some said they liked his plan to spend less time in the office and more time out in schools and the community.

But many on the board questioned his lack of experience in a diverse, urban district. That's something those same members say is a strength of Wallace, who once worked in Jackson, Miss.

Wallace was also praised for his knowledge of the political process and how to use it to get things done for schools.

There were four internal candidates interviewed for the job, but after the board narrowed the group of nine down to four semi-finalists, only Student Services Director Jim Davis remained. Most on the board characterized Davis as a strong leader, but they said they were looking for someone with prior experience as a superintendent.

Coolican and Wallace will return to Lansing the week after Thanksgiving for a second interview with the board and others.

"They will be taken on a tour of the city, they will visit schools, they will meet with community members," board Vice President Hugh Clarke said. "They will meet with employees, they will meet with the superintendent, have lunch with students. It's an extensive process."

After that, December dates are scheduled for visits to the districts where the two currently serve -- it's the last major step in Lansing's superintendent search.

"It's a process that's never a simple one because you're basically called to judge other people," Clarke said.

Now with two finalists, there's only one judgement left to make.