Does winning an election gain you trust?
According to Sumner School Board president Sherm Voiles, the answer is no.
Last night, the Sumner School Board, including outgoing member Jeff DeMarre, gathered in an executive session and voted to extend interim superintendent Craig Spencer’s contract for one more year. Spencer’s contract now extends through June 2013.
Casey Chamberlain and Paul Bucich, the board’s newest members to be sworn in next month, vocalized their unhappiness with the board’s decision to make the move without their input. Bucich said he hadn’t received a phone call from any board members regarding extending Spencer’s contract.
“I feel like the action tonight is being done to cut the legs out from under the new board members,” said Bucich. “It shows you do not trust us. Give us an opportunity to learn what you have learned and discuss it with the remaining board members for action in December or January.”
Voiles told Bucich and Chamberlain he had a “crazy busy” week and meant to call them regarding the contract extension but didn’t find an opportunity. He said that regardless, they should trust the longstanding board members to make the right decision on behalf of the district.
“There is 100 percent support amongst the principals in our district for extending [Spencer’s] contract,” said Voiles. “All of us sitting up here have been involved in the Sumner School District for a very long time… Trust has to be earned; it doesn’t just come from winning an election.”
Extending Spencer’s contract was DeMarre’s last decision as an acting board member. He pointed out that there is a combined 40 years of experience between himself, Voiles and Mike Pavlik in the school district.
“Typically you make wiser decisions when you have experience,” said DeMarre. “If you [Chamberlain and Bucich] were to act on this at your first meeting, you would only have two hours of experience to go off of. The best decisions are made by those with the most experience.”
Chamberlain expressed his dismay at the board’s decision and urged them to wait a month so he and Bucich could participate in the decision.
“Let us, as a new board, make this decision. Trust me, do not make this decision out of fear,” said Chamberlain. “Waiting 30 days will make no difference. It will start a rift if you do this now.”
Voiles said he wanted to extend Spencer’s contract because the district needs more time to consider the right candidate and “heal” from the and the . Reading from a yellow tablet of handwritten notes taken during his interviews with district principals, Voiles noted that the whole leadership team supports Spencer and the work he’s doing in the district.
“We just need to slow down the process… a one-year extension means we could wait until August and get back on the timeline for optimal recruiting. Staff wants a stable work environment,” said Voiles. “If we did not have an outstanding interim, we would be moving a lot faster. Craig has done an outstanding job and it will allow us to take our time.”
Rick Hendricks spoke in opposition of extending the contract without including the new board members in the decision and said there has been a lack of communication between him and the district leadership team.
“We’ve never done any type of evaluation in the time that [Spencer] has been [superintendent]. I think he is doing a good job, I’ve heard he’s doing a great job, but shouldn’t we be doing some sort of evaluation?” asked Hendricks. “There are some people who I have talked to who said there have been concerns. To say it’s all warm and fuzzy, that isn’t always the case… I’ve heard some people say that no, it’s not all that great now, it’s just different.”
While Greg Hanon was not present for his last meeting as an acting member of the school board, Hendricks said Hanon disagreed with the decision to extend Spencer’s contract. Hendricks also voiced his opinion about the exit of Mendoza, who attended Bonney Lake Elementary’s 50th anniversary party earlier in the evening.
“I was never in favor of letting Gil go to begin with,” said Hendricks. “We should have let his contract finish out and we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Voiles pointed out that finding a new superintendent takes time and the extension allows everyone, including the new school board members, an opportunity to participate in a more in-depth interview process.
“This isn’t undercutting your role on the board, or cutting you out of the interview process. If nothing else, it’ll increase your role,” said Voiles. “We just need to slow down the process a bit and continue to heal and give you sufficient time to learn about your role as new board members. We want to position the Sumner School District to get the best person possible for the job.”