School board sets superintendent timeline
Although the Douglas County School Board didn’t select an interim superintendent Wednesday night to replace outgoing superintendent Carol Lark, who resigned last week, they did adopt a timeline for the selection process in hopes of moving the district forward after months of divisiveness.
“In parts of the district, the trust level is very low,” district consultant Jim Huge told board members. “A bruising has taken place. I’m not pointing fingers at one person; it’s happened in multiple settings.”
Over the next month, Huge will be gathering input from board members, district staff and the greater community regarding interim candidates. He will report back to the board Dec. 8 with his findings. Board members anticipate having an interim superintendent on the ground by January and a permanent superintendent named by mid March.
Members of the public will be able to make suggestions next week on the district’s Web site at http://dcsd.k12.nv.us.
However, board members voted 7-0 to exclude whoever is selected interim superintendent from the permanent superintendent position.
“I want the interim to focus on the job and not try to please the board, but do what’s in the best interest of the district,” said board member Teri Jamin.
In the meantime, with Lark leaving Nov. 30, the school district’s three assistant superintendents, Director of Human Resources Rich Alexander, Chief Financial Officer Holly Luna, and Education Services Director Lyn Gorrindo, have split up duties.
The question remains what kind of leader the Douglas County School District needs. Huge provided some suggestions he’s already received: An experienced superintendent or senior leader; someone with a demonstrated record of success in conflict situations, and someone familiar with Nevada.
Two other suggestions contradicted each other, Huge said. One was that the candidate not be a current or former employee of the school district, and the other was that the candidate definitely be a current or former employee.
“With a current or former employee, the advantage is that person would have a knowledge of the system an outsider would not,” he said. “Others want someone who can see the district with fresh eyes.”
Whoever gets selected, Huge said, one thing is clear:
“Everyone wants to make certain to begin the healing process and focus on the future,” he said.
On Wednesday, board members also re-voted on Lark’s $152,500 voluntary resignation settlement, which they approved 7-0 on Nov. 10.
“We’ve re-agendized it to put to rest any issue arisen from the Open Meeting Law,” advised district counsel Mike Malloy.
David Brady, who said he was speaking as a parent and taxpayer, not as county commissioner, argued that the school board’s Nov. 10 vote violated the state’s open meeting law.
“This item was not properly agendized; there was no support documentation provided the public in advance of the meeting (release contract); and adequate public comment was not provided prior to the board’s initial vote,” Brady said.
After a complaint about inadequate time for public comment surfaced at last week’s meeting, Board President Cindy Trigg arranged for a second round of public comment and another vote during the Nov. 10 meeting.
However, Brady still argued that taxpayers were being misled. He pointed to a provision in Lark’s original contract stating that unilateral termination with or without cause is possible with a minimum 90-days notice and lump sum severance payment of $120,000 with no benefits.
“I do not believe this is an industry standard,” he said. “Prior superintendents did not have such favorable language in their contracts. The same contract provides no language regarding a voluntary resignation. It begs the question: Why are we providing a buyout on a voluntary resignation?”
Brady said he could appreciate the board honoring its contractual obligations, but said, “let’s not misled the public by suggesting we are getting a discount or a good deal with this buyout. Instead of a buyout, let’s call it what it is – a unilateral termination.”
Board member Teri Jamin said she had reviewed the same language in Lark’s contract that Brady referred to. She said with the 90-day notice, though, the provision might have totaled more than the settlement.
“The cost associated with that provision would have been similar if not higher than the proposed agreement,” Jamin said.
This time around, board members voted 6-1 to accept Lark’s settlement agreement. Trigg, who supported the agreement last week, voted nay.
She told The Record-Courier that she had changed her mind and needed to vote her conscience. She said her views were her own and not reflective of the board.
“Had we acted like adults, we could have worked it out and saved the taxpayers’ money,” she said. “It was a 6-1 vote. Now, as a professional board member, I have to set my feelings aside and move forward.”