Public school leaders don’t leave cheap
The search for a new superintendent of schools is not easy and Douglas County history shows the struggle is becoming increasingly common.
Only a half-dozen people have served in the role over the last half century, and three of them account for the vast majority of that time.
Carol Lark has not been the shortest serving superintendent, nor was her exit the most spectacular.
Gene Scarselli served as superintendent of schools in Douglas County from 1956 to 1975 and had an elementary school named after him. His resignation included a public two-page letter of resignation targeting school board members. He was a hard act to follow for George Graham, who shepherded the district into the modern age, though he served less than three years.
Superintendent Greg Betts was the first real outsider to get the job. He was a superintendent of schools in California. He wore a Hawaiian shirt in his interview with The R-C in 1979. He went on to be the second-longest serving superintendent after Scarselli.
Having done well with Betts, school board trustees again turned to a former California administrator, Pendery Clark, the county’s first female superintendent. Clark served for nine years, leaving for a higher paying job in California.
The time superintendents have served in Douglas County has decreased, with John Soderman serving a few months shy of five years and Carol Lark a few months more than three.
Lark faced serious challenges from both outside and within. The district had a good quarter century of continuity. People were promoted from within and had the expectation that would continue into the future. But like any new administrator in a new place not all that distant from their old stomping grounds, Lark brought some folks north from her Las Vegas district. It’s not a surprise that bred resentment in a district that was reducing staff.
Add budget cuts, a school closure that prompted a school trustee election battle, and you have a recipe for a shortened superintendent term.
What we do know is that it’s hard to balance a budget when you have to pay someone $152,500 of taxpayers’ money to leave. We expect school board trustees to do an honest evaluation of what happened with Lark.
Then they should take steps to ensure we don’t have to pay the next superintendent the equivalent of three teachers’ annual salaries to resign.