Board Considers Not Refilling Superintendent Position
Board Member Alex Kochanowski said given the School Board’s reputation, he worries what kind of superintendent applicant the board will see. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
In a special meeting of the Stevens Point School Board Tuesday, board members put all their ideas on the table when considering how to proceed in the search for a new school superintendent- or whether they should consider running the district without one at all.
During about 45 minutes of open session discussion, the sparsely- attended meeting focused on options available to the board, including an internal search, and interim appointment and hiring a recruitment firm. No decision was reached and Board President Angel Faxon said there was no timeline yet in place for moving on the search, but board members were able to nail down some of their requirements for a possible replacement.
“They should already have a commitment to the community for at least ten years showing that heart and love for the community,” said Board Member Alex Kochanowski. “They should show they were here because of things in place beforehand and that they’ll remain here afterwards.”
Board Member Jeff Ebel said the district should hire an outside consultant to perform a candidate search, something for which the board paid about $20,000 to replace former superintendent Steven Johnson, which ultimately led to the hiring of Attila Weninger.
But Lisa Totten said another option was to forego having a superintendent altogether.
“Maybe instead of having our directors go through a superintendent and filter the information to us, that we can hold them to a higher level and have them report directly to the board,” Totten said, adding she’d heard that many school administrators throughout the state handle dual roles and department heads in the Stevens Point School District could do the same.
“There’s a lot of school districts that don’t have a lot of directors; their superintendent does it all. They’re doing six jobs and ours only do one,” said Board Member Kim Shirek. “I’d be interested in trying it- if it doesn’t work we could always do a (superintendent) search after. Directors are supposed to be experts in their field; let’s make them prove it.”
Chris Scott said Stevens Point has fewer administrators than many other districts in the state already and adding a bigger workload to each job isn’t feasible.
“At this point in time, as a district and a board and with the consolidated task force, to put that much information and that much responsibility on those people, on those key players, I don’t think it’ll serve our district well,” Scott said. “There’s a reason districts have superintendents. I’m not willing to support taking a chance, because what’s a risk is the success of our students and our schools.”
Scott also said she was “very concerned” about the search for a new superintendent.
“People aren’t real excited. What I’ve been told over the years is there’s a concern about the board’s reputation, and it’s not just this board, it’s all the boards. This will be the fifth superintendent in 12 years- that says something,” she said.
Kochanowski said in light of the district’s reputation, he also worried about the quality of applicant the board would be faced with.
“I don’t want a superintendent who’s going to be here for five years looking for a retirement package,” he said, also suggesting the district could hire an interim superintendent to act as a placeholder while department heads answered directly to the board for a year.
“We could try it to see if that works; if it doesn’t, there’s at least someone in place and we could move on to the search at that point,” he said.
The majority of the board agreed the position should be refilled with a full-time superintendent, but the discussion will continue regularly, according to Board President Angel Faxon.
“We’ll continue to include in on the agenda and keep discussing it until we’ve decided we’re ready to start the search,” Faxon said.
Weninger submitted his letter of resignation to the board on May 14, later telling the media he wanted to spend more time with his family. His resignation becomes effective at the end of the next school year.