Douglas County School Board agrees on preliminary timeline for new superintendent search

Current plan calls for vote on finalist by March 3

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The job posting for the next Douglas County School District superintendent will be displayed online beginning Feb. 17 and ending Feb. 25. The district's board of directors approved the preliminary timeline for the position in a special meeting Feb. 16.

The board plans to fully approve a schedule for hiring the position — which would set March 3 as the date finalists will be identified — during a Feb. 22 meeting.

During the special meeting, the board sparred over whether this timeline was too brief.

“We really need to get stability back, and I’m concerned that if we are leaving the superintendent seat vacant without a long-term solution, this sort of division is going to continue,” Director Christy Williams said in support of the shortened timeline.

Directors Susan Meek and David Ray spoke against the timeline.

“Why is this timeline so compressed that it prevents true, authentic public engagement in the hiring?” Meek asked.

The original timeline proposed by Board President Mike Peterson suggested the board vote on finalists by Feb. 24.

The superintendent position became open after the Feb. 4 firing of former Superintendant Corey Wise in a 4-3 vote. The previous superintendent search, which resulted in the selection of Wise, took about four months.

Wise was selected as superintendent in April of last year from a pool of more than 100 applicants. There were four finalists — two from within the district and two from other states. The district hired an outside search firm, Frederick Andrews, to lead the process.

The newly elected board members — Peterson, Williams, Becky Myers and Kaylee Winegar — voted to oust Wise, saying he had mismanaged masking requirements and they felt he undermined the new board members, among other complaints.

Directors Ray, Meek and Elizabeth Hanson voted against terminating Wise. 

The seven-hour Feb. 16 meeting included a one-hour executive session and more than two hours of public comment, with many attending the fully virtual meeting to comment on Wise being fired. 

John Lederman, co-president of the Student Advisory Group, lambasted the board majority for the firing Wise.

"We are losing our most exceptional teachers because of your malicious intentions," he said.

Lederman asked the board to allow students to be part of the superintendent interview process.

A commenter who identified herself as a non-union, 29-year teacher called the decision a "grave mistake."

Some speakers voiced support for the decision and the majority board members, with one participant saying she was "appalled and disgusted" with the minority members of the board. 

"The union and the minority board members continue to cause divisiveness, pitting teachers against parents and kids," she said.

External search

During public comment, several speakers predicted Erin Kane, an executive director of a charter school in the district and a former district superintendent, is the majority board members' predetermined choice for the position.

Kane recently joined multiple charter schools in requesting waivers from the district’s common communicable disease policy and requested a waiver from the district’s equity policy.

In past months, she has advocated for giving charters autonomy over COVID-19 protocols, including giving them the choice to decide masking requirements on their own if schools are not required to by local, state or federal mandates.

While Peterson initially said he was interested in only having an internal search, he later said he wanted it to be open to external candidates after learning from the director of human resources that in order for the position to be open to charter school applicants, it would need to be available both internally and externally. The board ultimately decided to open the search to both internal and external candidates.

When asked directly by Meek if the majority board members already had a candidate in mind, Peterson said he called Kane a few weeks ago to see if she would be interested in the superintendent's position. She said "yes," he said.

“I think she would be a good candidate, but I am also open to looking at other folks,” Peterson said.

Myers and Winegar said they did not already have a candidate already in mind. Williams said she hoped Kane would apply.

In response to interview requests with Kane, a spokeswoman  for American Academy provided a letter that Kane sent to the charter school community on Feb. 17.  

Kane said she was honored when Peterson asked about her interest in applying for the superintendency.  She called her experience as interim superintendent during a divided time in the district one of the most  difficult and rewarding parts of her career. 

Speculation about her succeeding Wise is premature with the search process just starting, she said, but promised to be transparent with her schools as the search gets underway.

"I am committed to helping us move forward to a brighter future, whether leading American Academy or our district, if given the opportunity," she said. 

After a discussion ranging from grammar and semantics to background requirements for the superintendent's position, the directors unanimously approved a job description.

Ray suggested they only consider candidates with direct experience teaching and with education, but the majority board members said they would prefer more general language. 

The approved annual salary for the position ranges from $220,000 to a maximum of $330,000.

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated with statements from Erin Kane.)

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