NAFC School Board split over hiring of Director of Middle School; re-opens search PDF Print E-mail

By Josh Suiter
Special Correspondent

The New Albany-Floyd County School Board voted against a recommendation for the Director of Middle School position and requested the administration to reopen the search during their meeting on April 10.


Board member Lee Ann Wisehart said “While this candidate has done a good job for our corporation, at this time, I am not able to support the recommendation for the Director of Middle School position. I am asking the board to direct Dr. (Bruce) Hibbard to reopen the posting for this position and if necessary find more aggressive places to post and explore recruiting opportunities.”

“I have higher expectations for the individual who is hired as the new director. I believe it is important that this individual as the new director of middle school have ample experience in teaching at the middle school level and ample experience managing middle school staff across a diverse student population, a proven history of leadership accomplishments directly associated with increased student learning and innovative ideas that can lead our middle schools into the ever-changing now and the future,” she added before asking fellow board members to “direct Dr. Hibbard to re-open and post the position and explore other candidates.

Board member Donna Corbett said Rhonda Roos, the previous Director of Middle School, set the bar high for her predecessor.

“Her high heels are going to be hard to fill. I, too, feel like maybe we could do better if we opened up the search and maybe a little broader.”

Board members then voted on the recommended candidate, Bill Krammes, principal of Highland Hills Middle School.

Lee Cotner made the motion and Jenny Higbie seconded it. Both of them served on the search committee.

They were joined by Jan Anderson for a vote in favor but board members Wiseheart, Corbett, Elizabeth Galligan and Becky Gardenour voted against it and it failed 3-4.

Corbett made a motion to open up the search and Wiseheart seconded it.

Superintendent Hibbard then asked “where as we supposed to re-post this? Since it has been posted for four months.”

Galligan asked where it has been posted and Hibbard said “The Principals Association, the Superintendents association, we posted in a bunch of different places. It was posted on our website. We had people from Ohio apply in which we interviewed. Mr. Cotner and Mrs. Higbie sat on the committee. Overwhelming, Mr. Krammes was the candidate we chose in the committee. I don’t know where else we are going to post it.”

“My recommendation would be to analyze where you posted it before and find other places to post it,” said Wiseheart.

Corbett said “I just know that I googled like and and saw ads for other school corporations looking for directors and principals and I didn’t see us on there. I think it was ISBA (Indiana School Board Association) that we are advertised on. Where else did you?”

But Hibbard said and are “places where we don’t normally place ads that we will find quality candidates for these positions.”

Anderson said “I would be remised that if I didn’t mention that in speaking with Rhonda (Roos) just this week that she said I want to say thank you for looking within the corporation instead of going outside and she went into reiterating why it would help us and why she supported it. I know how people feel about Rhonda. She is going to be difficult to replace. She is outstanding.”

“But the real question is that we had two school board members on the committee that both voted yay. I don’t know why we are using school board members to sit on the committee if the school board is not going to follow their lead. They were a part of committee, which is the first time I have utilized a committee to hire a director that is a direct report to me,” Hibbard said.

“The board has given direction and we have already voted on it. So now moving forward with the new motion that is on the table to repost it. I have faith in you that you will look at where you posted it, post it again and find other options,” Wiseheart said.

That opened the door for more back and forth.

“So, you are saying if we bring you the same candidate it is going to be the same fate?” Hibbard asked.

“I am not saying do the same thing, I am saying find other alternatives in addition to what we have already done,” Wiseheart responded.

Anderson asked about time constraints.

“There are time constraints and the unfortunate thing is that had we done what we have done in the time I have been here the last 8 years, when Dr. Roos put in her retirement and the board acted on it in November, we would have posted it immediately. We didn’t do that because we had a board member say they wanted to discuss and took us all the way into March to decide if we were even going to have the position. That has put us in a quandary for the fact that if we wanted to post the position for another 15 days now we are into May with going to the board to ask for a plan and if in fact we came with an internal candidate and that internal candidate would have to be replaced, which would be another 15 days and another board meeting and before you know it we are into July and that is when we start school. Timing is everything,” Hibbard said.

Wiseheart said “I do understand your frustration but the will of the board has been not for this recommendation but for you to re-post it in all places as possible. I have faith in you.”

Bill Briscoe, Assistant to the Superintendent, even mentioned that bringing the board into the process this way is actually outside policy.

“I do want to point out though that, this is just for the board’s knowledge – I know we have some new members, that under Policy 12-30 responsibilities of the superintendent – The superintendent has the authority to assign, promote, transfer all personnel employed by the school corporation trustees and delegate authority and duties accordingly so this didn’t have to be brought this way it could have just been a promotion or transfer. He has that authority according to board personnel policy,” he said.

Corbett said “The policy also says we should be comprised of all vacancies and we should be trying get the best person for the job.”

“And we did that with Mr. Krammes for the Director of Middle School,” Hibbard said.

Corbett said “I am not saying he is a bad candidate by any means and I trust that Jenny and Lee listened and he was the best pick of the five people that we interviewed. My concern is that we didn’t throw our net far enough to see who all we could get.”

Hibbard said “And are you going to change the policy? Because you just voted against your own policy, which is re-iterated last year when we did a policy review.”

Gardenour then fired back. “I understand that but the board hires.”

“The board has hired the Superintendent. If you read the policy, the board hires the Superintendent and the Superintendent is in charge of hiring everyone else. The Superintendent makes recommendations on who to hire,” Hibbard said.

Cotner said he and Higbie were there for interviews all day. “We had excellent candidates. We had some excellent outside candidates and some excellent internal candidates….But if the board wants to cast a broader net, that is the board’s prerogative, I guess. The pool of candidates that we had I found very acceptable. The pool that we did have was excellent.”

Higbie agreed. “The wonderful thing about the candidates within our corporation is that they are very familiar with what we do. The relationships are already there. That is how I feel about it.”

“There were allegedly 10 applications but you all were only privied to 5, correct?,” Wiseheart asked.

Higbie confirmed that and said “We asked about the additional applications but they had shared that the applicants did not have the middle school experience.”

“But you did not see those applications. I would ask that the two board members involved in the process be involved entirely so that you can see all of them,” Wiseheart said.

In the end, the board voted to re-open the search by a vote of 4-3.

Wiseheart, Corbett, Galligan and Gardenour voted in favor and Anderson, Cotner and Higbie voted against it.

Following the meeting, Galligan said the vote was the hardest for her so far in her tenure on the board.

“I was surprised and disappointed that our search led to only two qualified outside candidates,” she said. “I felt that such a high-profile job, in an outstanding district, would have attracted more candidates. To make certain we are doing everything possible to seek the best, most qualified candidate, I felt reopening the search was the most prudent approach.”

In other business

New School Meal Prices

for 2017-2018 School Year

The Board also approved increases in school meal prices by a vote of 7-0. Breakfast fees will remain the same except for adults. Theirs will increase from $2.20 to $2.25. Lunches however for elementary will increase from $2.50 to $2.60, middle and high schools from $2.60 to $2.70 and adults meals from $3.45 to $3.55.

All reduced lunch fees will remain the same. The increase is due to a mandate from USDA guidelines.

The board also approved a change to their suspension and expulsion policy. The board voted 7-0 to hear all expulsion appeals instead of them not coming before the board, which was passed last year.

The board unanimously approved 14 contracts related to the building of the Green Valley Elementary School. The construction start date is scheduled for May 1, 2017.