Mary Ann Ranells was named West Ada School District superintendent late Tuesday after two days of intense interviews with trustees, staff and parents.
The board of trustees voted to name Ranells the leader of Idaho’s largest school district pending contract negotiations of terms that are “competitive and fair” to both sides, said trustee Russell Joki. Ranells accepted the offer on the table. She said she’ll be ready to work after the holidays.
The trustees interviewed Ranells during a closed meeting. When the returned to open session, West Ada trustee Mike Vuittonet made the motion to hire Ranells and trustee Julie Madsen seconded the motion.
Ranells was the only candidate trustees interviewed. (Click here to read about and watch a video collected from a question-and-answer session Ranells had with staff members.)
Ranells said she was “over-the-top excited,” to take the job. “What an amazing opportunity. I’m honored and thrilled to be considered.”
Ranells replaces Linda Clark, who resigned on Oct. 23 amidst conflicts with the board. The trustees did not accept Clark’s resignation and instead fired her days later.
Ranells said she wasn’t looking for a job when West Ada began looking for a superintendent. She talked with trustees in November during a Idaho School Boards Association convention at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.
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“I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I would love the opportunity to work with such an amazing staff and amazing kids,” Ranells said last week.
Vuittonet said he considered Ranells a top-tier candidate.
Ranells has 41 years of experience in public education as a teacher, principal, and a director of curriculum, assessment and special education. In the early 1980s, she was an English teacher in the Nampa School District. She served as the deputy superintendent from 2001-04 for the State Department of Education under Democrat Marilyn Howard. In 2014, Ranells contributed at least $1,000 to Democrat Jana Jones, a former Howard deputy who lost to Republican Sherri Ybarra in the state superintendent’s race.
Ranells most recently spent six years as the superintendent of the Lakeland School District in Rathdrum. She retired last year but has continued to work as an adjunct professor and doing consulting work with Solution Tree, a nationwide professional development group.
In 2013, Ranells and Clark were both members of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, which wrote 20 far-reaching recommendations on K-12 policy.
“Her experience is comprehensive and extensive,” Joki said. “Clearly she is recognized as a top-tier educator.”
Joki noted Ranells’ connections to two of Idaho’s top education groups — the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators. Ranells has twice received the IASA Leadership in Public Education Award and has recently performed board training for ISBA.
“She has strong ties to Idaho so there is no learning curve and she knows the state’s culture and funding,” Joki said.
Ranells is married to Bob Ranells, also a longtime Idaho educator and the superintendent of the Wallace School District. She has a bachelor of arts from Idaho State University, a master of education from the College of Idaho, and an education specialist and doctor of education in educational administration from the University of Idaho.
Click here to read about and watch the Ranells interview with staff.