Sharing: School board votes to retain shared superintendent 2013.05.08

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci Board of Education members aren’t ready yet to break with the shared superintendent concept they initially approved in 2010.

A motion by Carrie Dillon to discontinue sharing an administrator with Hudson died due to lack of support at the board meeting Monday. A second motion—to continue with the shared superintendent—passed by a 6-1 margin, with only Dillon voting against it.

Board members are uncertain where the agreement with Hudson will stand in two weeks when that board of education meets. At the quarterly shared services committee meeting with Hudson last month, representatives from that school indicated their board might vote to employ Dr. Michael Osborne as a full-time administrator once again, as it did before the shared arrangement began.

Dillon made her motion to discontinue sharing for financial reasons. The two districts each pay one half of Osborne’s salary and benefits.

Trustee Phil McCaskey questioned that approach, stating that the district is saving money with the half cost, yet nothing has been proposed to replace Osborne at smaller cost.

McCaskey said Morenci is in the tough financial position that Hudson was in four years ago. 

“Hudson took a hands-off approach,” he said. “They hired Mr. Osborne and let him do his job.”

Hudson is now out of debt and has funds set aside to rehire Osborne full-time.

“There are tough cuts ahead,” McCaskey said. “We have someone in place now who is willing to make the cuts.”

McCaskey said a Hudson school board member told him that Morenci micromanages to the point of making the superintendent ineffective.

Board president Scott Merillat said it’s not the board’s role to make cuts. That’s why a superintendent is hired.

Board member Laura Spencer stated her concern about a proposal for a combined superintendent/principal because the same person would be negotiating with the people they’re also supervising.

Spencer said she hears complaints about Osborne not being in the district enough, but by combining administrative roles, that immediately makes each job part-time. If that’s one of the core reasons for ending the shared superintendent, she said, she doesn’t see the situation changing.

Larry Bruce, the board’s newest member, said the shared arrangement has not been discussed since he joined the board in November. 

“I might not be ready to go away from a shared superintendent, but we know we have to make cuts,” he said. “We need to do something on the administrative end. We’re going to have to make some administrative changes.”

State officials think there are too many school districts in Michigan, Merillat said, and Morenci is now the county’s smallest. He urged the board to make a decision and move forward.

“Regardless of what we’re doing, we need to save $250,000,” he said. “There needs to be cuts made. Somebody has to do it.”

Several board members abstained from voting, stating there wasn’t sufficient information available. Merillat asked if there were any other motions and the discussion continued.

Spencer noted that the top administrator making the cuts is not going to be liked by those affected. She said she’s very disturbed by the undermining of administrators that she’s witnessed since joining the board two years earlier.

“I’m disgusted that as a board and a community in general we haven’t handled things with more respect and dignity,” she said, “and done what is right for students and made the hard decisions. I’ve never seen so many hidden agendas in my professional career.”

“We have a leader in place. Is Mike the right leader? I don’t know,” she said. “But whoever that leader is needs to be respected. Issues need to be dealt with like adults and dealt with professionally.  I don’t like what I’ve seen.”

Merillat said the board needs to establish a clear set of goals for the superintendent for six months down the road, for one year, for five years. Whoever is chosen, the person needs the board’s support—without interference.

Merillat said that any time in the future the district can opt out of the shared contract if the goals aren’t met.

The 6-1 vote leaves Osborne in place while the board awaits to hear from Hudson.

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