DUNLAP — The search for a new superintendent of Dunlap School District is down to two finalists — the superintendent from the Deer Creek-Mackinaw School District and the assistant superintendent of the Jacksonville School District.

About 60 teachers, staff, parents and students grilled the finalists — Scott Dearman of Deer Creek-Mackinaw and Dana Kinley of Jacksonville — on a variety of topics Monday during a community meeting at Dunlap High School.

Dearman has been superintendent of Deer Creek-Mackinaw since 2012. He was formerly principal of Farmington High School and an assistant principal of Chillicothe Elementary School. A graduate of East Peoria Community High School, he also taught math at Illinois Valley Central High School.

Kinley, who has worked in Jacksonville the past six years, has also worked at the Illinois State Board of Education, serving as administrator of curriculum and instruction and grants and contract coordinator. She has also served as director of early childhood education at Springfield Public Schools and as a teacher and principal.

A school district’s top priority should be academic achievement, she said, and a district’s budget should reflect its priorities.

While she described her leadership style as collaborative, she added that she’s the type who deals with the “elephant in the room” first.

“The hard conversations have to begin sooner rather than later.”

Dearman stressed his local connections.

“Attitude reflects leadership,” he said. “I like to model that.”

Peoria County’s second largest school district has been searching for a permanent superintendent since late last year after weeks of controversy over the board's 4-3 vote to oust Lisa Parker, the popular former superintendent. Board members appointed Randy Merker to serve as interim superintendent during the search.

The Illinois Association of School Boards has helped guide the search process. Board members narrowed the pool from six to two after interviewing the candidates late last month. They will consider the community’s rating of the two finalists in final decisions.

Board members initially had planned to name a new superintendent by the end of May, but they could make the decision earlier.

Both Dearman and Kinley have been finalists recently to fill other superintendent vacancies.

Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or padams@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.