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Granite School District looks within to tap Ben Horsley as the new superintendent

Incoming Granite School District Superintendent Ben Horsley addresses the school board during a special meeting to vote on his appointment, July 9, 2024.
Courtesy Granite School District
Incoming Granite School District Superintendent Ben Horsley addresses the school board during a special meeting to vote on his appointment, July 9, 2024.

The Granite School District board has appointed longtime staffer Ben Horsley to be its new superintendent. The July 9 vote came one day after it was announced that Superintendent Rich Nye would leave the district to become Gov. Spencer Cox’s senior advisor of education.

“I’m not gonna let you down,” Horsley told the board with emotion in his voice.

Horsley has worked for the Salt Lake County district since 2008, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was the communications and community outreach director for 13 years before becoming Nye’s chief of staff. Horsley was also an adjunct professor in Brigham Young University’s business school, a senior advisor to Congressman Rob Bishop and the chairman of the Davis County Republican Party from 2007-2009.

Board members spoke confidently about Horsley’s abilities, but one raised concerns about the speed at which they were selecting a new leader. Kim Chandler abstained from the otherwise unanimous vote.

“I don't fully agree with the lack of a search process for a new superintendent,” Chandler said.

A robust search process would have allowed her to interview a variety of candidates for the role and give her more time to deliberate, she said. While Horsley has performed well in his current role as chief of staff, she said “this decision is not a business decision. It is rather a vital matter of selecting someone who I feel best represents the values and ideals that I committed to represent when I ran for this role.”

Speaking in support of Horsley, others on the board noted he was a top candidate when they conducted a nationwide search for a new superintendent in 2021 before hiring Nye.

“Ben was mentored by Dr. Nye and continued to grow as an education leader,” said board member Karyn Winder.

“Horsley has worked hand-in-hand with Dr. Nye to put the district on solid footing and prepare us for future challenges. It should therefore be no surprise that Ben is the obvious and immediate choice to succeed Dr. Nye.”

Winder said Nye informed the board three weeks ago about his job offer.

Board member Julie Jackson said Horsley is “going to take this momentum that Dr. Nye has built and put it into high gear. And I'm really excited about that. I think it's time for that. What I don't want to do is slow things down.”

The July 9 meeting was a special meeting to appoint a new superintendent, but the agenda did not name who the board would vote on. Before it was announced that Horsley was the candidate, Granite Education Association President and Cyprus High School teacher Michele Jones told the board her concerns about the lack of a transparent search process.

“I know that you want to continue the positive upward momentum of our district, to keep the course, but sometimes you must go slow to go fast.”

Jones spoke highly of Nye. She thanked the board for choosing him in 2021 and attributed that success to the board’s high-quality search process for its last superintendent.

After the meeting, Jones told KUER she understands that this situation is different than when Nye was hired. In that case, the previous superintendent retired. But she still wishes the district would have gone through a more transparent search process.

Going forward, Jones said the Granite Education Association wants to see Horsley succeed as the new leader and they want to support his success. Only time will tell how he performs, she said, since he has not been a superintendent before. But Jones was encouraged by board members saying they wanted Horsley to continue working on the foundation that Nye built.

Horsley, for his part, said the appointment wasn’t about him but “about perpetuating the work of providing high-quality instruction to all. And I use that word very intentionally, to all students and families that we serve. Every child can learn full stop.”

Students should come first and “the only way that that can happen is ensuring that our incredible teachers and administrators and our support staff have everything they need to be successful in supporting our kids.”

Board members were tearful as they said goodbye and spoke about Nye’s impact.

“On behalf of my community, Dr. Nye, I'd like to thank you for the ways in which you've impacted all of our families,” Jackson told him. “I didn't know that a superintendent could have such a personal impact on people.”

After Nye delivered some last remarks, everyone in the room stood to give him a round of applause.

“Thank you for your support and opportunity to serve this wonderful district and community,” Nye said.

“I look forward to seeing the continued success of our students and schools in the years to come under superintendent Horsley’s leadership, the commitment and dedication of this board and the employees of the Granite School District.”

Horsley’s first day will be July 27. Nye’s first day as senior education advisor will be July 29.

Martha is KUER’s education reporter.
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