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Slightly off

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School board’s decision-making process raises questions

It’s been a busy few months for the Marion County Board of Education. Many things have happened in a very short amount of time. So, let’s review…
Superintendent Chuck Hamilton unexpectedly announced his retirement on May 2, and the search for a new superintendent began immediately.
On June 25, the board hired Steve Burkich as the acting superintendent of Marion County Public Schools.
However, on July 9, the board accepted Burkich’s resignation and appointed Taylora Schlosser as acting superintendent until a permanent superintendent could be chosen. Burkich was only “on duty” for six days, which has puzzled some community members who question if an interim was really needed, or if it was wasted expense.
On July 3, the board received recommendations of possible superintendent candidates from the superintendent search committee during a special-called meeting. However, the board only interviewed one candidate, Schlosser, and on July 11, she was officially hired to become the superintendent for Marion County Public Schools. Immediately following that announcement, Board Vice Chairman Ed Hacker submitted his resignation from the Marion County Board of Education. He said his daughter, Tammy Newcome, had applied for the position of instructional supervisor. For his daughter to have an opportunity to possibly be hired for that position, Hacker couldn’t be on the school board per state law.
The very next day, July 12, the board held a special called meeting to set in motion the hiring of Newcome. During the meeting, the board voted to eliminate the position of Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services/Food Service Director, which was formerly held by Schlosser, and approved an amendment to include the salary scale for the currently unfilled position of Instructional Supervisor.
On Monday evening, July 15, Superintendent Schlosser sent an email to school district staff and the media informing them that Newcome had been hired as the new instructional supervisor. Newcome began her new position Tuesday, July 16.
Did you follow all of that? Take a few moments to catch your breath.
In fact, you might consider reading all of the above information again so that you fully understand the sequence of events. Lots happened in a very brief amount of time, which is leaving us feeling, frankly, suspicious. For all of the above to happen so quickly it seems there had to have been some discussions and deals being made behind closed doors.
While we congratulate Schlosser on her new position, we have to wonder why the school board didn’t interview any of the other candidates. According to Board Chairman Michael Mullins, conducting additional interviews would have been a waste of time and money because the board felt that Schlosser was, by far, the most qualified candidate.
That might be true, but by only interviewing Schlosser it gives the impression that the board already had their minds made up. While Mullins insists that the board remained open-minded throughout the entire process, we still question why no other candidates were interviewed. For public perception’s sake alone, we feel the board should have interviewed the three candidates that the screening committee recommended to them.
Another part of this equation that has made us feel uneasy is the lightning fast hiring of Newcome as instructional supervisor. While we are thrilled that she is back in the Marion County school district, and we are more than confident in her abilities, we are troubled with the way her hiring went down.
It seems as if her hiring was already in the works before the position she was hired for was even available. Again, it leaves us with the impression that there were back room deals being made and closed door discussions taking place during the entire superintendent search process.
But, again, let us be clear.
Our beef is not with who was hired, necessarily, it’s with how they were hired.
We look forward to seeing what Schlosser can accomplish as superintendent, especially now that Newcome is on the team, but we are concerned with how the process was completed. Specifically, we are disturbed by what was obviously being done and said behind closed doors. For a board that has expressed its desire to be transparent, this just doesn’t pass the smell test.