USD 231 will not post an opening for superintendent.
School board members opted not to open a search for the top job in the district following a heated discussion at a Dec. 8 school board meeting.
Pam Stranathan now serves as interim-superintendent for the district. She was vaunted into the role, after a divided school board ousted former superintendent Bill Gilhaus in 2013. Stranathan served the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year as interim and continued as interim this school year.
Board member Mark Grannell asked the board to consider doing a search.
Board member Mary Herbert agreed.
“That is the normal procedure we should go through which we did not go through,” Herbert said.
Tresa Boden, board member, asked to which superintendent hire Herbert referred. She noted that Gilhaus retired at one point and was rehired without a search, and then Stranathan was named interim superintendent without a search.
“To me, it seems like it hasn’t been done correctly two times in a row,” Boden said.
Boden voted against conducting a formal search and questioned the timing of the request to start a search now.
“Is there something going on here that I don’t know about? Is there something bad going on here that a good job is not going on here?” Boden said. “What I’m hearing from staff and what I’m hearing from students is things are going very, very well. The teachers feel a lot of stability and (they’re) not talking about running for the hills.”
Brad Chandler said he would like to remove the word, “interim” from Stranathan’s title.
“I can’t believe all of the amazing things I’ve heard about how much better things are,” Chandler said. “All I heard before was ‘(previous administrator) rules with an iron fist.’ Apparently some people like that.”
Board president Rob Shippy warned the board not to evaluate current and former personnel in open session.
A motion to conduct a search for a superintendent failed, and Grannell asked if the majority of the board wanted to offer Stranathan the superintendent’s job without doing a formal evaluation. Typically, the board evaluates district leadership in January or February before agreeing to extend a contract.
“I think it would be prudent to do the evaluation as we normally do,” Grannell said.
Even after the motion failed, board members continued a heated debate. Shippy asked why Grannell wanted to post an open position now.
Grannell said a superintendent’s search takes time. He said he hoped to have a discussion about posting the job as opposed to a debate about an evaluation of how the job has been done.
“If you don’t want to post (the job), then that’s fine,” Grannell said.
He noted that when the board last conducted a formal superintendent’s search, with the consulting help of the Kansas Association of School Boards, it was a lengthy process. The board received approximately 100 applications, and consultants helped narrow the field before Gilhaus was offered the gig.
Grannell said if the board was going to do an evaluation tonight, that should have been posted on the agenda so the public could comment on it.
“It’s been decided,” Herbert said. “Let’s follow the way it’s supposed to be. We’ll do our evaluation and we’ll talk about it. That’s how we’ve always done it.”
But Shippy said he didn’t like the phrase, “How we’ve always done it.”
“Don’t pose to me that everything was done correctly in the past,” he said. “How we’ve always done business is not necessarily the correct way.”
The board eventually recessed into executive, or private, session. They did not do a formal evaluation. However, when the public meeting was re-opened, Shippy announced that the board will do a formal evaluation next month and “move forward with an offer, or removing the title of ‘interim.’”
USD 231 will not conduct search to replace former superintendent