By DAVID GREEN
Morenci Area Schools has a new interim superintendent in place following a unanimous vote Monday night.
Former Tecumseh superintendent Mike McAran was hired to serve on an interim basis for an undetermined time. McAran agreed to serve as the school chief to meet the July 1 deadline required by the state, but he won't actually be on the job until July 8 due to previous obligations. He retired from the Tecumseh post June 30 after working eight years in a retire/rehire status.
Morenci school board president Scott Merillat will work with trustees Larry Bruce and Carrie Dillon to create a contract for McAran.
Dan Garno of the Lenawee ISD assisted Morenci with the search by coordinating the effort to collect applications and providing suggested questions for an interview.
Garno told the board at a special meeting last Wednesday that in his experience, interviews generally aren't conducted for interim hires and some applicants were not interested in going through the interview process for an interim role.
Merillat said there were eight applicants and only two with interim experience. Morenci school finance director Erica Metcalf was among the applicants, Merillat said, informing him that she was interested and available if needed.
It's good to know that Metcalf is interested, he said, because it gives the board one more option to consider for an administrative alignment. He's hoping that an interim superintendent will serve for at least a year while the board determines what should be done in the future.
"We don't even know what positions we're looking for," Merillat said.
The board has discussed a part-time superintendent, a combined superintendent/principal and now a superintendent/finance director. An interim superintendent can help the board make the decision.
McAran was chosen, Merillat said, because of his experience, his interest in an interim role, his availability and his willingness to be interviewed.
McAran said that he welcomes the role of assisting Morenci. He's familiar with the district from when he served as principal with Sand Creek. After graduating from Summerfield, he began his teaching career in 1966 and his first administrative post was with Tecumseh when he was hired as an assistant principal.
To determine a district's strengths and weaknesses, McAran said, a superintendent needs to listen.
"You've got to ask people," he said. "You need a dialogue with all the board members privately, then you go to your teacher leadership and then you go to your student leadership. You've got to sit down and talk to your students. You've got to determine their needs, their perceived needs."
It's essential to listen to people to learn what they think are problems in the district.
"If you don't listen to them, you can't solve them," he said.
McAran said one thing that needs to be addressed is the district's low ACT scores. It's not a simple matter of blaming the teachers or blaming the students. He noted that in Tecumseh reading specialists were brought in and special education needs were cut in half. The source of problems must be found and services allocated, he said.
Paying for those services is not easy and in Tecumseh, secretaries, bus drivers and maintenance staff were all privatized in order to come up with funding. He said many decisions were made that he would rather have not had to make. However, he doesn't see funding problems going away.
McAran emphasized the need for a strong extracurricular program to keep students interested in the district and not switch to a neighboring school. When hiring new staff members, consideration should be given to candidates who can fill extracurricular roles, he said.
McAran said he expects the superintendent position to be a five-days-a-week job even if he's only paid for three. There's a lot of work to do.
"Everything we do here is to make this school run," he said. "I'm going to do everything to keep it operational. We'll show people what you can do. We need to get people working together and get the negativity out of here."
He cautioned the board that problems must be fixed to prevent the state from bullying and taking over the district.
"If the school goes," he said, "that's you're community."