Interim superintendent search under way in Rockland
Rockland — The Regional School Unit 13 Board voted Jan. 20 to explore all options for the possible hiring of an interim superintendent, including looking within the district to fill the need or hiring an outside candidate.
The board met to discuss the matter following an hour-and-a-half meeting with a facilitator from Maine School Management Association to learn how to function better together as a group.
Following the Dec. 31 resignation of Superintendent Lew Collins, the board continues to remain split on whether to utilize resources within the district to cover the job of an interim superintendent until a full-time candidate can be found or to hire an outside person to fill the post.
Chairman Esther "Tess" Kilgour said it is preferable to have someone in place by Feb. 1 so they can work alongside the superintendent before his last day Feb. 15.
Kilgour said MSMA has recommended a candidate, but did not say the person's name because he is employed elsewhere and she is not sure how much he has told his employer about exploring other options. She said she has not received a resume yet.
"It looks like a good candidate as far as I can tell," Kilgour said.
When asked by St. George board member George Emery what the procedure will be, Kilgour said the board will request resumes, all board members will have a chance to review and then they will schedule a time to interview, but stressed there may not be a large pool of candidates to select from.
Rockland board member Carol Bachofner said she was concerned about spending money on two superintendents at the same time when the board does not really have a clear set of answers about the budget. The board voted at its Jan. 9 meeting to approve a nearly $100,000 severance package with the outgoing superintendent. He will paid through the end of 2014.
Bachofner was also concerned about the timeline.
"I don't see how it benefits us at all to say on Jan. 20 that in two-and-a-half weeks we are going to have someone in place," she said, noting with the problems in the district, it could take two years to find a permanent replacement.
Marla McGeady, a Thomaston representative, also questioned if the district is in a position to pay two superintendents and asked about the possibility of exploring internally to fill the position.
"An interim superintendent is not a vehicle for change," Kilgour said, adding they are responsible for helping to create the budget and run day-to-day operations.
Nancy Jeffers of Rockland added that it is no secret the district is looking to fill the position and if district employees are interested, they should step forward and apply.
Steve Roberts, also of Rockland, suggested putting ads in newspapers. Roberts also said if people read Collins' resignation letter it says it is contingent upon payment made through the end of December.
"The superintendent resigned because we paid him to resign," Roberts said. "His resignation is contingent on his severance."
Roberts said if the board is so concerned with money, then they should ask Collins to be the interim until June. "I bet he would," he said.
Sally Carleton of Owls Head said that was an interesting thought but not a satisfactory solution because the district needs to figure out a way to move forward.
"In my humble opinion, we have existing staff that can help prepare the budget, pass the budget and do the most important thing — educate the children," Carleton said.
Carleton said the board also needs to determine how long an interim will serve.
"It is in the best interest of all of us to say 'it is what it is.' We can't go back so we must move forward," McGeady said.
Jeffers said she disagreed, stating that she "does not think anyone can say that we can run the district with what we have."
"I think if we ask Lew [Collins] to stay, he would," Jeffers said.
Roberts agreed it probably was not the best idea in order for the board to move forward.
Darryl Sanborn, a representative from Thomaston, said instead of rushing into hiring an interim perhaps the board could ask Collins to stay until an interim is hired, perhaps until March.
When asked if he would consider staying longer than Feb. 15, Collins responded by email Jan. 21: "I would never leave a district high and dry. I would be willing to do what needs to be done to keep the district moving forward if this was just a matter of timing with the selection of my replacement. This is a very hypothetical question because some members would like me to be gone yesterday and some would like me to stay for three more years."
Emery said he thinks the board needs to look at all options and see who is the best solution.
Loren Andrews, vice-chairman from Cushing, said he does not think it is fair to the teachers or the taxpayers to hire from the outside since there is a spending freeze in place. He noted teachers do not have money for supplies and children cannot go on field trips.
Collins said by email that field trips have not been cut.
After about an hour discussion, the board agreed to talk to MSMA about the expense of taking out advertisements for the position, look into offering the position to any interested candidates within the district, find out the cost of hiring an interim (Kilgour noted MSMA has said it is between $400 and $500 per day), and found out how much has been spent on attorneys, auditors and facilitators.
The next public board meeting has been moved from the first Thursday of the month to Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. since many board members would have been unable to attend the Thursday meeting.
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The Camden Herald editor Kim Lincoln has worked for Courier Publications since 2003.
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