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School board weighs options on superintendent search

Members consider various approaches, including asking Kane to stay


Hiring a permanent superintendent is a school board's most important job, multiple members of the Douglas County School Board said at a Nov. 28 board of education meeting in Castle Rock.

At the meeting, the school board was supposed to vote on one of three options for hiring a permanent superintendent for the 2018-19 but instead discussed the pros and cons of each option. The board is expected to come to a decision at a special meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 at DCSD's administrative building, 620 Wilcox St.

“We want to be thorough,” said school board president David Ray. “It is certainly possible that we might decide on a path but it's also possible that we will say no and continue to do more deliberation and research.”

The three options include selecting one of three firms to do a national search, conducting a regional search in-house or hiring interim superintendent Erin Kane as permanent superintendent.

Kane was hired in 2016 after former superintendent Elizabeth Fagen resigned and took a position in the Humble Independent School District in Texas. Many teachers and parents blamed Fagen, who was hired in 2010 by a school board majority of reform-minded members, for policies that led to an exodus of teachers and administrators over the past several years. During her tenure, the school board severed ties with the teachers' union.

Kane, a Colorado native with an engineering degree in applied mathematics and computer science from the University of Colorado, helped found charter school American Academy. Executive director of the school from 2013 until taking the interim DCSD post, she pointed to her leadership of the school's community in her bid to win the job.

In January 2016, the Douglas County School Board extended Kane's contract through the 2017-18 school year.

Hiring a permanent superintendent was a hot topic leading up to the Nov. 7 school board election, when voters elected four anti-reform candidates, Kevin Leung, Krista Holtzmann, Chris Schor and Anthony Graziano, who in their campaigns promoted a permanent superintendent search. They filled the seats of four reform-minded members, Meghann Silverthorn, Steven Peck, Judi Reynolds and Jim Geddes.

“I'm struggling because our conversation before the election was an MLO (mill levy override) and a superintendent search,” Schor said at the board meeting.

Board member Anne-Marie Lemieux questioned if there would be an option C, which is hiring Kane as permanent superintendent.

“We need to clarify if Kane is interested,” she said.

Kane said she is committed to leading the "wonderful" school district through the transitional time.

"The new board members and I are getting to know each other," she said. "Once the board decides what process they will use to determine the permanent superintendent, I will decide if I plan to participate in that process."

The pros of hiring Kane would be familiarity and stability for the district, said Ray. He noted that a national search could warrant a higher salary because of the competition among other school districts that are also searching for a new superintendent.

“A plus is we've seen the performance of this leader,” Ray said.

Board member Wendy Vogel isn't confident that the school board would be successful in passing a tax measure for more funds in 2018 if a new superintendent is hired. She pointed out that option C gives flexibility to search for a new superintendent at a later time.

“… I think who we have now is highly capable,” she said. “The plus of option C is moving forward sooner with an additional revenue stream.”

Board members voiced concerns about high costs and time associated with a national search. A plus of a regional search is attracting a candidate who is familiar with the district and community, Graziano said.

“Timing is a factor,” he said, “for recruitment and training.”


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