In Carson: Sparks fly at school board meeting

Ignoring repeated and impassioned pleas from members of the public, the Carson City School District trustees late Tuesday evening decided to fast-track negotiations with the district's current human resources director Richard Stokes to replace Dr. Mary Pierczynski as superintendent pending her retirement at year's end.

Trustee Joe Enge, who felt the district was lacking transparency in the search by foregoing any kind of job posting or interview process prior to offering the position to Stokes, said Tuesday, "it's a given to the point of cliche that the most important thing we do as a board is selection of a superintendent. Apparently no policies or procedures exist."

Enge suggested the board implement some formal procedures, including, but not limited to the introduction of Stokes to the public at a board meeting giving Stokes a forum to explain why he's qualified and why he wants the job.

Trustee Enge also suggested culling additional candidates by advertising the job.

His motion was quickly rebuffed.

Next came trustee Barbara Howe, who winnowed down Enge's motion to simply table setting up immediate contract negotiations with Stokes, who was out of town on district business Tuesday, until the next meeting.

In the interim, the public could reach out to trustees with questions to ask Stokes.

This motion lost by a tie-breaker vote cast by the school board president, James Lemaire.

Next up was trustee John McKenna, who in a rambling plea called on the trustees to forego any further discussion and enter into contract negotiations with Stokes immediately.

McKenna said casting a wide net or starting a national search for the position would be a waste of time and resource. Frequently he mentioned other neighboring districts embroiled in similar searches and said he did not feel it was worth monetary or "human" cost.

"Mr. Stokes lives in this community. His children go to school here. He's lived here for the last six years. He likes it here," McKenna said. ""He's highly regarded by the people sitting here.

"Can we afford - and not (just) monetarily - to go through enough people to have the cream of the crop rise and in two years when they want to (leave) say 'oh, let's pay them $80,000 and send them on their way?' ... I seriously doubt if Mr. Stokes would do anything in his first five years as superintendent to make anyone on the board question (him)."

Members of the public countered McKenna's argument - some noting that making a snap decision without public review of Stokes or a formal interview process - simply might not reflect positively on the school board.

"Perception is important in this world," said audience member Joe Eiben. "Our children are in your hands. You need to get the public (opinion). They hired who they wanted. That's the perception you're giving."

Enge agreed. "The perception is real that this is a done deal. In my opinion, it comes across as a done deal and is a disservice to Mr. Stokes."

McKenna was adamant to the contrary saying, "One, we're going to end up with Mr. Stokes anyway and, two - Joe (Enge) maybe you should do some thinking instead of talking."

The back-and-forth was quickly diffused by the five members of the board sitting between McKenna and Enge, all of whom eventually sided with McKenna to enter into contract negotiations with Stokes right away.

"I would like this board to forget about anyone else until we agree or (cannot make) a deal with Mr. Stokes," McKenna said.

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