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Anchorage schools chief not chosen for Iowa job

Rosemary Shinohara
Bill Roth

Anchorage School Superintendent Jim Browder was one of two runners-up for the job of superintendent in Des Moines, Iowa, according to an announcement Friday by Des Moines School Board president Dick Murphy.

Browder had not resigned his job in Anchorage and is expected to return to work here.

"I wish them well as they move forward," Browder said in a written statement after the announcement. "I am focused on my role here as superintendent of schools and will continue to work to improve the quality of experience for our students."

Browder did not return a call from the Daily News.

"He is not providing interviews as there is nothing more to discuss outside of the information in the statement," said Anchorage School District spokeswoman Heidi Embley.

The Des Moines district selected Thomas Ahart, who has been the acting superintendent for 10 months.

In the meantime, the Anchorage School Board has scheduled an executive session Thursday, after Browder returns from a conference in Washington, D.C., to talk about his contract and "make our plan," said board vice president Tam Agosti- Gisler. It will be an executive session -- behind closed doors -- and she couldn't talk about it in more detail, Agosti-Gisler said.

Board president Jeannie Mackie was not immediately available.

School Board members in Anchorage have said they first learned on March 1 that Browder, after less than a year on the job here, had applied for the Iowa position and was one of three finalists. The deadline for applications for the Iowa job was Feb. 11.

Browder, 65, had told the Anchorage board in mid-February that his daughter and grandson in Georgia were seriously ill with separate health problems and indicated he might have to leave town temporarily; he didn't say he was applying for another job, Mackie told the Daily News.

Browder has not made public what the medical problems are or given any interviews to Anchorage news media about his family's medical issues or the possibility of his leaving.

Browder spoke at a reception for him in Des Moines on Wednesday, and also answered questions from the district's school board. The other two finalists had interviews earlier in the week. Their statements and interviews were all televised on the Des Moines district's website.

In his interview, Browder told the Des Moines board, "I really believe I'm the right fit at the right time."

He said he saw the potential for the Des Moines district to reach a new level.

"I'm willing to commit to stay for the long haul," he said.

Browder spoke about his Iowa job application at an Anchorage School Board meeting last Monday, saying he wanted to reassure the board and the community.

"I'm still the superintendent of schools and working every day in the best interest of ASD students, staff, and this board and community," Browder said.

Anchorage board members interviewed earlier this week said they felt Browder had made good progress since taking over as superintendent.

Asked whether Browder would likely be able to return to Anchorage with the same energy and commitment, Agosti-Gisler said, "That might be difficult."

Browder has been Anchorage superintendent since July 1, when long-term superintendent Carol Comeau retired.

Browder's wife is working as a teacher in Florida and has not moved to Anchorage.