The three finalists for the head principal job at Natrona County High School fielded questions about leadership styles communication, academics, extracurricular activities, and graduation rates.

But several of those questions at a forum Thursday evening at the school district's Central Services Building probed their views trust, relationships and accountability..

The candidates -- Ron Estes Jr., Shannon Harris and Mark Hutcheson -- sometimes couched their answers in terms of safety for staff, teachers and students.

Not safety in response to violence, but being in a safe culture to work, teach and study.

"The most important thing for me is to be able to create a safe environment for kids and for staff," said Estes, an assistant principal at NCHS. "If people don't feel safe, they're not going to worry about their education, so providing that base environment is my number one priority."

Hutcheson, associate principal for grades 11 and 12 at Linn-Mar Community Schools in Marion, Iowa, said he would insist the staff at Natrona County High School have a good attitude. That also means everyone at the school needs trust, which will build a better culture, he said. "In order to feel good about things, you've got to feel like you're a part of things; you've got to feel like you can contribute."

Harris, as director of curriculum and instruction at Lincoln Count School District No. 2 in Afton, said she wanted to make her school a place where she and others wanted to go.

"A positive atmosphere, I believe, comes from providing a safe climate and a positive learning environment," Harris said. "If people don't feel safe, and the climate is not conducive to learning, it's not a place anyone wants to be."

After the forum, Estes


cited their decades of experience in the classroom, playing fields and administration offices at a forum Thursday night.

They promised collaborative leadership and an open-door policy with other administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents and the community, they told a packed room at the school district's Central Services Building

They touted transparency, extracurricular activities as one way to strengthen graduation rates, attention to special education, specialized academies, the international baccalaureate program, and accountability for their actions.