Marty Fonley, 49, a former Algona Community School District superintendent, currently serves as the Carroll Schools interim superintendent. Fonley is one of three finalists to be Carroll's next superintendent.
Marty Fonley, 49, a former Algona Community School District superintendent, currently serves as the Carroll Schools interim superintendent. Fonley is one of three finalists to be Carroll's next superintendent.

April 18, 2019

The finalists hoping to be Carroll Community School District’s next superintendent arrived in Carroll this morning for a last round of interviews before the school board members select the next school leader. They’re expected to choose a new superintendent tonight.

The finalists include Marty Fonley, the Carroll Schools interim superintendent; Dr. Casey Berlau, an online learning advocate; and Alan Miller, a leader in school safety.

Carroll Schools teachers, community members, school board members and the high school’s marketing and advertising program known as Tiger Vision all were present to meet with each candidate in different groups.

Trent Grundmeyer of Grundmeyer Leader Search in Ankeny — who helped find Kevin Lein, Carroll’s former superintendent who resigned earlier this year after working here less than a year — said that this time, organizers mixed up the stakeholder interviews.

Each group of interviewers was a mix of teachers and Carroll residents, but administrators were left out of the groups and given a separate time to meet with the candidates.

The questions the stakeholders asked this year also varied from those brought up a year ago, he said.

“A lot of the groups are coming up with their own questions, but what I see is probably more around visibility in schools, more around following policy and procedures — it seemed like a big item,” Grundmeyer said.

Here’s more on the three finalists.

Marty Fonley

Fonley, a former Algona Community School District superintendent and Carroll’s current interim superintendent, resigned from Algona in July after stating in a letter to the school board that “negative insinuations and false statements” had been made to harm his reputation, according to an article from the Kossuth County Advance. He was accused of bullying and then firing a female principal, according to Radio Iowa.

Fonley, 49, told the Times Herald he resigned from Algona because of relentless “attacks” from residents and some school board members who were angry about budget cuts and the firing of an elementary school principal.

“As the superintendent, you are kind of the lightning rod,” he said. “Sometimes people are upset because of what your role is. It’s definitely painful.”

Since accepting the interim superintendent position in Carroll last month, Fonley said he has enjoyed getting to know the school staff and community. So far, it’s been a wonderful experience, he said.

“It’s a beautiful community (that is) interested in the community (and) in their schools, and when I say schools I mean both schools — Kuemper and the public (district),” he said. “There’s a lot of passion there. I think there’s a lot of partnership there, which is great. It’s also really nice to have. Not every community has that relationship and it’s really cool to see here.”

During his time in Algona, Fonley worked closely with Bishop Garrigan Catholic Schools. He said in Carroll he would continue to bolster the relationship between Carroll Schools and Kuemper, because putting the students first is always No. 1.

“To me, anything you can do to enhance the relationship and make it better is always something you are going to do,” Fonley said. “It was always a positive up there, because we focus on what’s good for kids.”

Fonley’s wife Jackie, who was formerly an instructional coach at Algona Community School District, recently accepted a principal position at Pocahontas Area Community School District. Together they have two kids: Brooke, 19, a freshman at Simpson College, and Matt, 17, a sophomore at Algona High School.

If he is selected for the permanent superintendent position in Carroll, Fonley said his whole family would move to Carroll, where he looks forward to getting even more involved.

“What do I look forward to?” Fonley asked. “Being a part of the community, because to me, that’s just a given as a superintendent. You need to be involved in your community, and you need to be visible, because the school is an asset for local businesses and for the community in general.”

Alan Miller

Miller, 55, currently works as the superintendent at the Murray Community School District in Murray. He previously served as a technology coordinator, high school principal, elementary school principal and special education coordinator at Murray Community School District.

Since becoming one of the top three finalists, Miller has visited the Carroll community twice with his wife Laura.

During his trips, he has met with many Carroll residents, who he said are friendly and welcoming. Miller said he wanted to make sure Carroll was a good fit for him and his wife if he is offered the position.

“I always say, I take a job because I want to take it — not because I have to take it,” he said. “I always make sure I fit the district (and) it fits my philosophy (and) my vision.”

For the last seven years, Miller also has worked as a sheriff’s deputy reserve officer for the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.

In those seven years, he has completed numerous in-depth law-enforcement trainings on active-shooter situations.

Miller said he already has called the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and wants to continue his training, which has allowed him not only to help out local law enforcement but also to bring extensive knowledge in school safety back to his staff and students at Murray.

“I would like to continue my training, because there’s a lot of active-shooter training, but more importantly, the training I am taking is like crisis and hostage negotiation — it’s a behavioral science,” he said. “Being able to understand student behavior and understand situations and be proactive is so important.”

Casey Berlau

Berlau, 44, who currently serves as the shared superintendent at both Nodaway Valley Community School District in Greenfield and CAM Community School District in Anita, has 13 years of superintendent experience.

Berlau’s wife Jodi is a third-grade teacher at Nodaway Valley Community School District, and their three kids, Maci, 9, Bryce, 14, and Madi, 17, attend school there.

Berlau said his current work as a superintendent for a shared school district would transfer nicely to Carroll — a school that has relationships with not only a private school district but a community college.

“I saw it as an opportunity to serve one school district,” he said. “I also understand in rural Iowa sharing is not an uncommon thing. I’ve always looked at Carroll as a quality school district. There’s a lot of things going on.”

Berlau said that throughout his career as a superintendent, he has learned the value of building and maintaining solid relationships.

“I think a big part of education today is partnerships, and that’s really what you’re talking about with DMACC, and I know there are partnerships between Kuemper and (Carroll),” he said. “You are always serving the best interest in the district you are serving.”

Like any school, Carroll has both strengths and areas that could use improvement and growth, Berlau said — and that’s what excites him about the possibility of joining the district.

I am confident there are a lot of really positive things going on here,” he said.